The rags to riches story is always an easy win amongst our masses, for a simple reason that it gives hope. It is also an age-old formula for all the popular talent shows, that have become our dinnertime favourites. Yes, we appreciate the art, but what really keeps us glued is the celebration of human victory over life’s challenges. Secret Superstar banks on this very premise and brings forth one of these ‘winning’ stories in an attempt to strike the right emotional chords.
Insiah Malik (Zaira Wasim) is a 10th class student from Vadodra. Growing up in a troubled household has not stopped her from dreaming big. Nazia(Meher Vij), the mother is a silent victim of domestic violence but always finds the courage to support her daughter’s ambitions. The protagonist here is not one. It is the beautiful relationship between this mother & daughter. Bonded by household chores and television, these two are the most honestly written characters in the whole set up. Farookh Mallik played by Raj Arjun does justice in his limited screen space as an oppressive Muslim evil husband/father. There is also a naive, pure-hearted Gujju guy Chintan(Tirth Sharma) with a tiffin full of ‘world best theplas’ , always at his crush Insiah’s rescue. Sadly this is the only character that comes closest to reality with his intelligence and struggles all being emphatic. Everything else is either too easy or extremely over the top.
Insiah becomes a ‘Superstar ’ only with her second Burqa-clad YouTube video. For the sake of simplicity of cinema, let us even ignore the social media sensibilities here. She even flies in and out of Mumbai to record her first Bollywood song (obviously in one take) within her school time. Also, squeeze in a lecture that this teenager throws at an established composer about life lessons and music in general. Emotions over logic, always.
The film is full of clichés on the surface, with the small town struggles, teenage romance, a feminist lawyer, outrageous media hype, a loud musician etc. Amidst all this, there are small lovely bits that breathe reality into the otherwise dull narrative. There is a Sardarji on some filmy channel who pops up every few minutes (almost like ‘main samay hoon’) to give us an update on everything that the movie is not able to hold up together.
Major disappointment comes with the fact that Aamir Khan’s role is almost dispensable. What should have been a crowd puller is only a gimmick. He obviously lights up the screen as this flamboyant over the top music director, but his role has no meat. While his job like his previous stints is only of an enabler and not to take centre stage, his contribution here is a miss.
For a story that revolves around music, the songs are underwhelming. Nothing that will give you Goosebumps, much like its portrayal in the film.
Despite the stretched pace, what sways you off your feet are the brilliant performances by the entire cast. Zaira Wasim is obviously too talented for her age and a delight to watch. Meher Vij is also lovingly irreplaceable. Wrapped in predictability the underlying thought is simple yet beautiful, that of the right to dream.
Do not watch it for Aamir, watch it for all hearts and fewer brains. Giving this one a generous three/five.