Hindi Medium quick review: Irrfan Khan's film makes you laugh but doesn't hit you hard
As Saba Qamar, the lead female actor of Saket Chaudhary's Hindi Medium, puts it in the film - 'English is not a language in India. It is a class.' In a similar sense, Hindi Medium is not a film, it is a feeling.
It is a feeling that every Tom, Dick and Harry faces, whose second language is not English or who has not been privileged enough to gain education from an English medium school or merely someone who prefers to speak in their mother tongue rather than English.
It is that unadulterated feeling of being yourself and not succumbing to societal pressure.
Hindi Medium hammers home this idea in such a lighthearted manner that it does not feel like a bitter antidote to deal with a colonial hangover. Rather, it is a sweet pill that you do not mind taking. The film does not uphold Hindi as the linguistic supremo but emphasises more on India's obsession with English.
Irrfan Khan and Pakistani actor Saba Qamar play a couple who have acquired a Hindi medium education in a government school but aspire to make their daughter study in a top English medium private school so that 'she does not go through the same struggle that they did'. They are willing to go to any hilarious, and at the same time saddening, extent to get their daughter admitted to a school reserved for the elite.
Irrfan, as usual, nails his act of a humble guy who falls for a girl at the first sight. He plays a henpecked husband, but not out of submission. He just does not take his life seriously and chooses to take it one unreasonable demand at a time. His transformation is frustratingly gradual but he delivers impeccably in the final monologue, prompting the audience to forgive the fact that it took so long for him to get there.
Saba's character, on the other hand, comes across as one-dimensional. She is an insecure mother who lets herself fall prey to the fear of failure instilled in her by society and the educational institutes. However, if her back story, which has not been explored much in the film, is taken into account, you do feel the place where all her nagging comes from.
The supporting cast is spot on too. A special mention to Deepak Dobriyal who perfects his act of a simpleton. In the changing cinemascape of Bollywood, where there is a soft corner for grey roles, he plays the epitome of optimism and simplicity. Yet, his compelling act allows you to root for him in every scene.
Amrita Singh returns to the silver screen in a negative role after Mohit Suri's 2005 action thriller Kalyug. She plays a school principal who initially appears as a morally upright woman scorning at those who attempt to grease her palms. One wonders how she has managed to be at the centre of such a corrupt system only to discover her darker shades towards the climax.
There are also fleeting cameos by Neha Dhupia, Sanjay Suri and Mallika Dua (yes, that Mallika Dua). They have little to do but manage to lend a helping hand to the lead characters. The girl who plays Irrfan and Qamar's daughter is adorable to an extent that you would smile at her mere appearance. She brightens up every frame where she is in the spotlight.
The writing by Chaudhary and Zeenat Lakhani is tight in most of the places but is so fast-paced that sometimes the characters do not get the time to breathe. It feels like they are just throwing their dialogues to each other.
Also, while the film sets out to be a fun film which should not be taken seriously in its entirety, it oscillates from a satire to a social commentary. Some plot points are exaggerated for effect while the others are a harsh reality. The viewer tends to get confused between the two categories and might end up believing the exaggerated notes while overlooking the factual ones.
Chaudhary does his best in bringing forth the chemistry between Saba and Irrfan - a chemistry that is easy on the eyes despite the head reminding you that their character traits are poles apart. In this respect of sparking that connect between unconventional couples, the director probably draws from his past films - Pyaar Ke Side Effects starring Rahul Bose and Mallika Sherawat and Shaadi Ke Side Effects starring Vidya Balan and Farhan Akhtar.
The film has also been shot beautifully as it effectively contrasts the posh colony of Vasant Vihar with Chandni Chowk in New Delhi. Also, Sachin-Jigar add more life to the film with three songs (one during the end credits) that are not stretched and focus on carrying the narrative forward. With Meri Pyaari Bindu last week and Hindi Medium this week, they proved that they can offer both quantity and quality equally well.
Hindi Medium will be remembered as that lighthearted entertainer that hits you hard with its emotional quotient yet does not make you cry your eyes out.