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Secret Superstar  : Mothers Are Superstars
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Friday, October 20, 2017
Advait Chandan
Aamir Khan, Zaira Wasim, Meher Vij

A little like Sia, the real life singing star who keeps her face a secret from the public, meet Insia, the YouTube sensation who sings under a burkha. For Insia, the reason is simply an abusive, conservative father who’ll destroy her guitar before letting her go public. Hiding under a burkha to live her dream, is her supportive mother Najma’s bright idea that works bigtime.      


If the ‘Meri Maa’ number in TaareZameen Par tugged at the heartstrings, Aamir Khan’s latest production goes a step further. Secret Superstar almost deifies the mother and practically demonises the father.


And it works in its sweetness, its warmth and in once again pushing a vital social message. Debut-making writer-director Advait Chandan draws you into this cosy family in Vadodara where mother Najma, her 15-year-old daughter Insia and little son Guddu have fun times together while they watch out for one another. Like them, you too almost dread the moments when father Farooq makes his violent appearances.


Despite being married to a man who beats her up for the frailest of reasons, Najma turns even the secrets she and her kids keep from intolerant Farooq into giggly moments. But she’s at her best when she gives her daughter the freedom to dream and to breathe without fear.


It’s a fine debut that Advait makes, combining lightness of mood with mature depth in what he has to say. 


But a running time of 150 minutes is way too long for a cosy, homely film. A tighter screenplay and crisper editing would’ve made it neater.


The writing is also, a little too pat in places. The ease with which a 15-year-old makes a connection with a seasoned celebrity musician is like a fantasy. A schoolgirl flying alone to Mumbai, making a veteran musician change his tune with one short dialogue or learning and recording a new song within six hours are all in the realm of the improbable.


While the songs are acceptable, a film that’s about an unknown 15-year-old rocking the recording roomsrequired more robust chartbusting music. Like Aashiqui 2 which Insia herself quotes in the film.


Perhaps Advait also tries to pack too much into one film. Domestic violence, female infanticide, sacrificial mothers, smothered dreams, a multi-dimensional mentor and a mid-teen romance are phew, quite a bit to tackle at one go.


However, Aamir Khan as the over-the-top, hammy musician who combines the brusqueness of American Idol judge Simon Cowell with desi composers like Anu Mallik, delivers a performance that’s different from what we’ve seen him do before. Zaira Wasim is like a veteran as the burkha-clad sensation. Even Kabir in the small role of brother Guddu is cuddly. It’s topped off with a superb enactment of mother Najma by MeherVij who’s frail as the battered wife but feisty when she has to be the tiger mom.


For drawing out such performances, Advait deserves another round of applause.


For a sensitive, sensible film that also has delightful moments, Secret Superstar gets a 3.5* rating.


Reviewed by
Bharathi S Pradhan

Senior Journalist & Author
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