Saket Chaudhary’s Hindi Medium is a terrific interplay of emotions, humour, and satire in a subject that isn’t really glamorous. It is a story of the troubles of a common man, only the common man is a rich family.
The hassle of being parents is difficult enough. But in an age where there’s crazy competition, more opportunities in terms of technology and learning, where even parents are under scrutiny for the way they bring up their children, this gets magnified. An ignored, but important topic, is school admissions. Not just any school, but the best school in the city. A need to brag to other parents about their progeny learning and acquiring skills from the best.
Raj Batra (Irrfan Khan), the tycoon of designer wear shops in Delhi’s Chandini Chowk, is under duress. His wife, Mita (Saba Qamar) wants her daughter to get what she never had. A palatial house, a BMW, good food, access to good health care. And now, good education.
English, the language, is almost the main protagonist. While it’s hard to get the grammar or tense correct all the time, even for someone fluent in the language, for Mita Batra it determines one’s position in society. She is hellbent on giving their daughter Pia a good education, and wants to get her into the top school in the city.
There are two routes: the longer route – waiting for school-sanctioned interviews, red tape, middle men for whom money isn’t always the lubricant; or the shorter route – feigning poverty, faking your income to get in on the reserved quota. Mita and Raj choose the shorter route – almost illegal, and definitely immoral.
Reality soon hits them.
Rejection, denial, having their privileges taken away, all that just for securing admission into a good school. The longer route appears futile, the shorter route is more reckless. Burdened and obsessed with the idea of keeping up with the trappings of a high society and yet, going back to where they come from, the Batras get schooled in life.
Whenever their plan hits a road block, it’s Raj she vents to. Or berate, for not trying hard enough. It’d be unfair to call him a hen-pecked husband, because in a lot of ways, we understand where Mita is coming from: harbouring her own insecurities, not wanting her daughter to face them.
Raj too is someone who wants what’s best. But he doesn’t have the drive his wife has. Laid-back, he looks at life lightly, with a shrug. Yet, he tries to rise to the occasion when his wife demands it. He thinks that money will solve their woes. There are moments where he thinks this laid-back attitude makes a lesser husband, a lesser father. These are moments he keeps to himself, but it’s always there – at the back of his mind.
The strength of Hindi Medium lies in its well-scripted story and characters. Add good acting to that and what you have is a film that is well-intentioned, and thankfully, has no forced moral lessons. There’s a sincerity in each character, no one’s exactly perfect here and that’s what makes them more real.
Raj and Mita are flashy Delhi people. The very definition of nouveau riche, they believe money will solve all their problems. But when push comes to the shove, they resort to lying about their riches to secure that quota-seat in one of Delhi’s prestigious schools. Elated, but not elated enough. You relate to them in this, their lowest moment.
Irrfan and Saba, with the addition of Deepak Dobriyal, excel in their roles. There’s a tinge of emotion from Deepak that strikes a chord: the hardworking provider of a poor family who’s willing to fall under the bus for the sake of his family. It exudes sincerity and is a performance to watch out for.
Fun and yet serious enough to get you thinking, Hindi Medium could be a perfect weekend watch, but has its shortcomings too. The characters are interesting enough, and feel like people one can relate to for most of the film; and the story sounds intriguing on paper – where the idea of fitting in to a rigid society is brought out, but there are moments when the director resorts to melodrama and exaggeration.
These moments make this very un-Bollywood film less than perfect.
The Hindi Medium review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.