Starring Darsheel Safary, Aamir Khan, and Tanay Cheda. Rated PG.
All children are special, but some have special needs and are bypassed by society. Taare Zameen Par: Every Child Is Special is the uplifting and inspirational story of one such child, named Ishaan Awasthi (Darsheel Safary).
Ishaan is a seemingly normal child, but there are hints that he is different from other kids. He likes to catch tiny fishes from a filthy Mumbai street waterway, and he gets into fights with neighbouring kids playing cricket. He also occasionally plays hooky from school to explore the city, taking in all its grim reality (child labour, poverty, congestion) but its beauty as well, which he finds in sugar-coated ice balls on a stick and the waves rolling in on the city shoreline. But Ishaan's failing school grades prompt his middle-class parents to move their son to a strict boarding school. This only makes matters worse, however, as the boy becomes lonely and depressed. He loses all interest in school, even his love of painting, until a new art teacher (Aamir Khan) awakens his spirit.
Bollywood's attempts at making socially relevant films usually end up preachy, but superstar-actor-turned-first-time-director Khan hits the bull's-eye with this minimalist story of a boy struggling with dyslexia, a learning disorder that can rob children of their ability to read and write. The beauty of the film lies in Khan's visual storytelling, which mixes animation and live action, to give us a glimpse into the mind of his young protagonist. His emphasis on subtlety keeps the film from drifting into melodrama. He lets his talented cast do the rest, especially Safary, who delivers a standout performance as the troubled but bright child trying to find his way in the world.
Khan, who has a special-needs brother, indicts the Indian education system, which he thinks is geared for churning out geniuses while spitting out those it deems to be failures of its inadequacies. The film also criticizes Indian society for failing these bright children by overlooking their hidden talents.