Hindi Medium is 3 Idiots for parents and educators. It is a film about class-mass divide, the eccentricity of the privileged; the pressure that parents put on children; and about how education has now become the biggest business – even among those who claim to be ‘prestigious’ and ‘public.’
Mita (Saba) and Raj (Irrfan) belong to the nouveau riche, mohalla folk who have risen in wealth after their business of making “original copies” of designer wear took off. But money alone doesn’t make you “high society”, and Mita’s aim is to get their daughter Pia admission in one of Delhi’s top English medium schools, by hook or by crook, to make her feel at home among the elite.
But schools are bigger and fancier than ever before (golf carts to take you across, temperature-controlled swimming pools et al), and being the child of Hindi medium-educated, shop-owner parents instantly puts you at a disadvantage in this dog-eat-dog world. An admissions consultant and multiple efforts later, Pia doesn’t make it, so Raj and Mita resort to a pretense of “gareebi” to get her name in the list reserved for those applying under the Right To Education Act. Will Pia make it?
The first half evokes many laughs at Irrfan’s failed attempts to come across as polished, but much of the humour is lost in the second half which is more sentimental in tone. The climax is one that you see coming, but the journey to the finish is worth it.
If you look at performances, Hindi Medium is a winner. Irrfan, usually seen as a serious actor, shows that there is nothing he cannot do justice to. He effortlessly makes you laugh as the tailor’s-assistant-turned-mega-tycoon trying to fit in with the old money crowd. Saba Qamar is Pakistan’s finest export so far, and excels as the Chandni Chowk girl with social climbing aspirations. Tilottama Shome as the parents-consult-me-in-their-first-trimester admissions consultant and Deepak Dobriyal as the poor laborer with a heart of gold deserve a special mention.
But does it happen only in India?
As much as Pakistanis would love to deny, we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that both the countries are sliding parallel in a lot of ways. The education system is fairly one of them.
There are so many schools in Pakistan that are running on money-minting admission basis, denying the merit eligibility and gracefully embracing the classes are set apart. In the movie, how Delhi’s two different sides; Chandni Chowk and Visant Vihar are shown, we have Saddar and Defence in the exact same spots. How the phrase goes ‘Karachi do hisson mein hai; ek bridge k iss paar ek us paar’(Karachi is divided in two halves on the contrary sides of the bridge referring to the flyover starting from Marriott Saddar and connecting to teen talwar at Clifton)
Have you ever heard of a Lyari residing super talented kid studying n Karachi Grammar School? Pakistan’s top notch elite school where only a handful of powerful kids are selected each year). Similarly, so many schools can be counted on finger tips where only the affluent and hi-society kids go and even if the rest manage to go on underprivileged quota, the costs attached with the education alone are unbearable for the middle class parents.
The second concept highlighted in the movie was the fact that how schools commercialize the admissions; parents stand in line from dawn to dusk at the very first day when schools announce just the availability of admission forms. I have personally experienced it in the family where my aunty was so adamant on putting their son in BVS (another top notch boy’s school in Khi) that they had to stand in line from 5AM just to get their hands on admission forms. The process followed by parent’s interview where they needed to know the annual income and occupations of the parents so the school could decide if the kid should be granted an admission or not. How do you justify a student’s capabilities based on the outlook of parents?
The movie does not only depict the culture prevailing across border but gives a deep insight to every Pakistani parent as well who struggle for the admissions of their children in the best schools possible. However, for the education to be the best, the culture has embedded in our minds that the pockets need to be full. Being under privileged and less fortunate only puts you in the hands of misery where most incredible talents go to waste only because they can’t pay to bring up their finesses in front of the world!
Hindi Medium is a must-watch for educators, parents and students; it tosses many questions but more importantly, it tells you that for most incommodious problems, the solutions don’t lie elsewhere; they are within you.
So if you haven’t seen the movie yet, rush to your nearest cinema. And if you already have, share your reviews in the comments below. How accurate do you think the depiction was?