I had watched the Hallmark TV film Front of the Class sometime back while searching for films on YouTube. That was the time when Netflix India and Amazon Prime subscriptions were not a reality. As the joke goes, fans of the American television drama Grey’s Anatomy have had their share of googling for medical terms. Tourette syndrome was something that made me curious and I read as much as there was to be found on the internet. The film like most of these ‘TV films’ was forgotten until the trailer of Hichki was released.
Hichki is an official adaptation of the book Front of the Class: How Tourette Syndrome Made Me the Teacher I Never Had written by Brad Cohen and Lisa Wysocky (which inspired the Hallmark TV film too). However, Siddharth P. Malhotra along with the team Ankur Chaudhry, Amar Hadap and Ganesh Pandit have added elements and subplots to suit an Indian narrative.
Hichki Review: The plot
Hichki follows a safe formula of Bollywood underdog movies. Naina Mathur (Rani Mukerji) has an M. Sc and a couple of B. Ed degrees and yet she has had to look for teaching positions. The search has taken over 5 years and 18 schools having rejected her. Tourette syndrome is said to develop in childhood and like Brad, Naina has had to deal with it since she was in junior school, resulting in her having had to change at least 12 schools. In one moment, in one dialog, the fact that we have a long way to go before we can have an inclusive society (the world over), is summed up.
When Naina finally gets a job, it is not because of her merit or inclusivity, it is because a bunch of misfits (14 boys and girls) from the nearby slum have been inducted into the school under the Right to Education Act. Recently, Hindi Medium had spoken about RTE too.
So it is left to Naina to ‘reform’ these misfits and make sure they sail through the final exams, that they earn a ‘prefect badge’ etc. We’ve all had our shares of good teachers, the ones that change our lives and help us make important decisions. In cinema too we’ve had such teachers- Thackeray in ‘To Sir, With Love’, John Keating in ‘Dead Poets Society’, Nikumbh in ‘Taare Zameen Par’. However, in Hichki, Naina Mathur is as much a misfit as her 14 students are to ‘society’.
The 14 students are not accepted in the elitist school, symbolized by Mr. Wadia. Wadia is not just a teacher, but a symbol of our class-conscious society that doesn’t see the help’s child and the child from the middle-class home studying together. Neeraj Kabi is given a set of clichéd dialogs when there was an opportunity to well layer his character.
The students are rowdy almost by default, making posters with their teacher’s phone number, placing bets, breaking the teacher’s chair, playing constant pranks. There is no backstory, maybe because Naina’s struggle, her estranged parents etc. could already be a handful for the audience. The instance where Naina visits the slum was another missed opportunity, and one wonders why the story wasn’t more layered.
Hichki review: The performances
In spite of the oft-seen narrative, Hichki manages to make you emotional, and it is all because of Rani Mukherjee’s performance. An artist of her stature doesn’t make you feel that this is a film after a long hiatus.
Hichki review: the verdict
Hichki might not be a film steeped in cinematic brilliance, but Rani Mukherjee’s struggle with her speech deficit and her need to become a teacher is a good weekend watch. A definite one if one is a Rani Mukherjee fan.
Rating – 2.5/ 5