'Secret Superstar' is based on this simple belief that dreams do come true. But what makes this film special is that these dreams come true in a fashion previously missing in the heart of Hindi- even Indian- cinema.
The story of Insia Malik, who sings on YouTube under a Burqa by the name 'Secret Superstar' is a new, amazingly heart and fresh film with a bunch of memorable moments and a simple concept turned into a bold one. Zaira Wasim infuses emotions with prowess as she improvs Insia. And its hard not to submit to the strong act of Meher Vij as her mother, strong as much. But Aamir Khan wins you over in a sober way as Shakti (or I am wrong?), Insia's underdog, rise-and-fall-and-rise mentor.
All in all, a mianstream film like 'Secret Superstar' is Bollywood's want. And the film fulfills each want in glory.
Whenever we talk about Aamir Khan movies, we invariably associate it to be a creation that breeds quality. This is exactly the reason why his movies which appears once in a couple of years are received with much fanfare & expectations across the globe. His last release was "Dangal" which smashed all Bollywood box office collection records. However, his latest release "Secret Superstar" which is bank rolled by his production house has him in a supporting role. The trailer & the music has been impressive and with Aamir involved in the project the expectations are nigh high.
Insia Malik (Zaira Wasim) is a 10th grade student with a passion for music who resided in Vadodara with her family. She dreamt of becoming a singer & with the talent that she possessed it wasnt a dream that was impossible to achieve. With a loving mother, Najma (Meher Vij) who constantly encouraged her & a doting younger brother, it felt like she had the freedom to pursue her dreams. But it was easier said than done, especially with an abusive father who lost his temper at the smallest of reasons & inflicted physical torture on his wife. Since her father detested her musical leanings, she decides to upload her music videos on Youtube under the name "Secret Superstar" as she was clad in a burqa so that her identity remained unknown. In due time, her videos became viral & she received offers from the music industry to become a playback singer. But will she have the courage to reveal her identity lest her father knows about it???
This is the directorial debut of Advait Chandan after having served assistant for projects like "Dhobi Ghat" etc. He had taken on the responsibility of penning the script as well which focused on the bond between mother & daughter against the backdrop of dreams & domestic abuse. Despite the presence of a huge star like Aamir Khan, the director made sure that the focus is on Zaira & how along with Meher they tide over the challenges in their lives. Almost all the tracks by Amit Trivedi was in sync with the proceedings & didnt seem like a sore thumb at any point, with "Nachdi Phira" rendered by Meghna Mishra being my personal favourite. Equally praise worthy were the lyrics by Kausar Munir while Anil Mehta's visuals were fine as well.
Both Meher Vij & Zaira Wasim were equally brilliant & it would be hard to choose between the two. They have done utmost justice to their roles as their performance endears to our heart. They were adequately supported by Raj Arjun as Insia's father while Tirth Sharma (as Chintan) & Kabir Sajid (as Guddu) were excellent. Last but not the least, what do I say about Aamir Khan??? This guy is an absolute legend & brings his A-game whatever might be the role that he takes up. He was fantastic as Shakti Kumar, the arrogant lecherous conceited yet harmless music director with a heart of gold.
Verdict: This is undoubtedly one of the finest movies that had been picturised on the bond shared between a mother & daughter. It might not take the box-office by storm as it is not a flashy entertainer. The protagonist's path towards stardom might seem a tad too easy but you can rest assured that the screenplay will moisten your eyes & also bring a smile to your lips. In short dont miss it!!!
Towards the end of Secret Superstar, a character utters few lines about the basic need of having and chasing dreams. She is doubtlessly inspired by another character who uttered those same lines previously during a heated verbal tiff. The authenticity of drama and the power that these characters have in you, much like how they have it on their co-characters, even while shouting at each other, are remarkable.
Advait Chandan's debut feature, Secret Superstar, which tackles two heavy subjects of domestic violence and chasing dreams at once is a definitive reflection of the patriarchal pit that we, or our women rather, live in. Self-learned amateur bass guitar player, occasional school-goer, and full-time dreamer Insia looks up to Bollywood music singers and follows them on awards circuit, albeit on TV, with a dream to become one herself some day. There are many obstacles that are limiting her chances, but the most virulent and relentless one is in her own middle-class household, a hypocritical sadist father who beats his wife at the drop of a spoon and controls his family like a merciless fascist government. Seeing Insia play with her guitar when she should be studying mathematics instead is already a good reason for him to lash out, so what happens when she creates a YouTube channel and moves an inch forward to her dream? The heated setting explodes, and the explosion is an arresting spectacle.
Director Chandan uses women living in oppression in a patriarchal household to craft a narrative that is a bit unrealistic and contrived from time to time. A theme last seen in Rima Das's festival-favorite indie drama Village Rockstars, the film hopes to shed light into the dreams of young girls suppressed by their own people. A girl who prefers her father's permanent absence and who is forced to travel miles without letting her folks know for fear of rebuke is the perfect example of the combination of audacity and determination required to tackle the obstacles, and Secret Superstar conveys that point across with some palpable drama and shades of quirkiness.
Aamir Khan is absolutely phenomenal as a idiosyncratic music producer known for his sexual escapades and bad temper. His presence on screen is like drinking Kool-Aid in scorching heat, and every time he appears, thirst automatically finds its way. It is characters like him that Chandan uses to support his ship that is determined it will not sink. From the gaudy metallic print t-shirts that he wears to his oddball demeanor, Khan plays a character that is only second to Zaira Wasim's. She steals the limelight with her cheeks that go scarlet when she dreams and surprises herself, quarrels with her mother and close friend Chintan, and takes a stand for herself against the oppression, unlike her mother competitively rocked by the talented and sweet-nosed Meher Vij. The duo look like they are mother-daughter in real life, what with their seamless connection and similar complexion. If Wasim is the captain of this ship then Vij is the second captain with Khan sitting in the corner as an adviser with wisdom and energy to drown in. Special mention to Raj Arjun, who is the mole in this ship, for pulling off the father character so impeccably that you want to beat him up.
One of the many reasons why Secret Superstar works and never bores you is the tiny references that it makes to life in general. Taking potshots at the music industry, surface touching the current Weinstein-inspired scenario, the oppressed family living in a society called "Modern Colony", and the sexism that is so prevalent around us are to name a few. These references are tidbits that make the broth tastier and prevents you from focusing on the mannered narrative. The soundtrack is thankfully not cheesy and gels wells with the screenplay. Music is an integral part of what Insia dreams to achieve, and that's one thing that the film gets correct in terms of picturisation and flow.
It tugs at your heart as you root for this charming little lady with a guitar in one hand and grit in another. Secret Superstar is a warm and engaging film about being fearless and moving toward your dream no matter what, and with a sweet little love story hidden in the core, it scores. It scores big. TN.