I was taken aback at the sight of so many children at my regular theatre. Tucked into their seats, already stuffing popcorn into their mouths.
Pasanga 2 began with a sports day scene. An overweight student is mocked by his friends. To prove a point, he joins a long-distance race. At first, he falters. Then we see him overtake the fastest kid, and touch the finish line. Everyone is shocked. The audience, especially the children, cheer loudly. Then the announcer says, the kid is still one lap behind everyone else. It doesn’t faze the boy, who goes ahead and completes the race, though he’s the last to finish. He receives a special award from the principal, who says that no matter the result, it’s important to complete a challenge. In sport, and in life.
Pasanga 2 is a non-preachy, fun take on India’s education system. It’s about parents misunderstanding the idea and purpose of education. It’s also about really understanding children. We follow the lives of Kavin (Nishesh) and Nayana (Vaishnavi), two intelligent and mischievous children who have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Their parents don’t know how to manage them. They’re moved from school to school, because no institution wants to retain them. Pasanga 2 shows us how they cope with this situation.
During February-March, there are usually long queues of parents outside Chennai’s elite schools. From kindergarten itself. In one scene in the film, two old men reminisce over how times have changed. One says, “In those days, the school’s headmaster used to come home and request the parents to send their child to school. But now parents line up to get their child admitted. Back then, wine shops used to be private and schools were public. Now the tables have turned. What else can we expect?” These are poignant critiques, and defining moments in Pasanga 2. And the audience loves it.
The film explores the fissures in our education system. How a child’s future depends on the parent’s ability to get admission in a ‘top school’. Oddly enough, where the child’s creativity is routinely suppressed. Asking questions is seen as arrogance. Mischief is seen as indiscipline. Slow learning is seen as stupidity. Schools want ‘bright’ students, and punish those who do not toe the line.
Child actors Nishesh and Vaishnavi are the life of Pasanga 2, with their adorable antics and expressive emotional scenes. Vaishnavi in particular owns every scene she’s in, with her sparkling eyes and partially toothless smile. She’s especially outstanding in the climax. Ramadoss, Vidya Pradeep, Karthik Kumar and Bindu Madhavi do their job as confused adults who have got parenting completely wrong. Ramadoss, the secret kleptomaniac father, is hilarious in parts.
They are also parents who pay more attention to what the teachers say about their children, than to what the children say about their own needs. They want their child to be ‘disciplined’, and don’t care if the child’s individuality is lost in the process.
Suriya and Amala Paul shine in their extended cameos, adding much more value to the film than just their celebrity names. Another actor might have pulled off those scenes, but these two bring something unique to their roles. Suriya is a child psychiatrist, and talks to the parents about children. When one parent complains that his son uses objectionable words, Suriya says “Pasanga ketta varthai pesardhu illa. Keata vartha dhan pesuvanga” (Children do not use objectionable words. They speak what they hear).
Balasubramaniam’s cinematography aptly brings out how colourful life is for a child. Pandiraj made an impact with his debut film Pasanga, and his directorial achievements are no less here. He brings out terrific performances from the children. The script is well researched and relevant, and is likely to resonate with any audience. The resonance is heightened by the fact that most of the incidents depicted in the film are drawn from real life scenarios.
On a personal note, Pasanga 2 certainly struck a chord. I was a ‘dull’ student in a school which prioritised high marks, and little else. Questions were rarely answered, creativity routinely discouraged, and the only message the school had for us was that the Board examinations would decide our future.
I leave the theatre struck by the memory of how I never ended up scoring those high marks. And how my life feels no less bright for that. I see a teary-eyed mother, embracing her child as she kisses her cheek. It is a precious moment, in a childhood that will pass all too quickly. And this is the biggest lesson from Pasanga 2: to embrace your child, and to believe in them and their abilities. Not the school they go to.
The Pasanga 2 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.