Hindi Medium movie review: Watch it for the glorious Irrfan Khan

Hindi Medium movie review: Irrfan Khan delivers a fine performance in this film which puts the difference between Bharat and India in sharp focus. Pakistani actor Saba Qamar gets some moments too.

Rating: 2 out of 5
Written by Shubhra Gupta | New Delhi | Published:May 19, 2017 12:35 pm
hindi medium movie review, hindi medium, hindi medium review, irrfan khan, saba qamar, hindi medium image Hindi Medium movie review: Irrfan Khan delivers a well-judged performance. Watch out for the scene where he is catching his favourite soap on telly.

Hindi Medium movie cast: Irrfan Khan, Saba Qamar, Deepak Dobriyal, Swati Das, Tillotama Shome, Amrita Singh
Hindi Medium movie director: Saket Chaudhary
Hindi Medium movie rating: 2 stars

In the India-Bharat that we live in, and especially in New Delhi aka Nai Dilli, there are many games people play when trying to assess your worth, but whichever way you slice or dice it, much of it comes down to that biggest social signifier: English or Ingliss?

What is your snob-o-meter? You may be chauffeur-driven in a fancy BMW, flash your Chanel bag, sport a pair of the latest Versace shades, and so on, but if you can’t speak the Queen’s language as she is spoke, there go your chances to be invited to the really swish parties in town. And for your offspring to crack the most difficult exam ever: to get into the best private schools, where English is both the medium, and the message.

Hindi Medium comes at an apt time, and shines a light on the near-insurmountable barrier that language, the knowing of one, the not knowing of another, can be. As we see Chandni Chowk merchant Raj Batra and his wife Mita struggle to get their daughter into the best schools, where the parents have to pass the entrance to the nursery test first before anything else, we see the horror stories we read and see playing out in front of us.

Raj (Irrfan Khan) is a self-made man, and quite happy where he is. Mita (Saba Qamar), whom he calls Mithu, is the one who wants social mobility for her daughter. So they move from the crowded galis of the old city to a swanky home in South Delhi, but that journey is not enough. The proximity to the fancy school may have been addressed, but the not-knowing-angrezi puts them on another planet.

Also read Irrfan Khan can do anything: From AIB meme video to Litbit video, here are Hindi Medium actor’s hilarious efforts

The film opens well, and both Irrfan and Pakistani actress Saba, make you feel the anxiety and the anguish of parents in search of that very elusive holy grail: an English-medium school that will take their children to the pinnacle of success.

hindi medium movie review, hindi medium review, hindi medium, hindi medium movie, Irrfan Khan, Saba Qamar, hindi medium images Hindi Medium movie review: A still from Saba Qamar, Irrfan Khan-starrer film.

But it dips, and becomes much less sure-footed when the family is forced to don the ‘gareebi’ garb ( to get access to the seats that private schools have to keep aside for the EWS, economically weaker section). This well-off family’s interactions with those who live in the slummy parts of the Capital, over–run by rats and stinky toilets and sarkaari schools are an uneasy, forced act: while mining sympathy, some situations turn insensitive and unconvincing.

It is tricky territory, this looking at `ameeri’ and `gareebi’, English-speaking snobs and Hindi medium worker drones, the haves and have-nots, and the film becomes shaky and laboured in these portions. Both the snobby how-to-get-into-nursery-schools coach (Tillotama Shome), who is busy making money off desperate parents, as well as the dodgy principal (Amrita Singh) of a school that lets ‘these poor children’ in are more caricature than real. Which is a pity, because with some depth, these characters could have lent the film much-needed nuance: Singh, who can be altogether wonderful, comes off confused and under-utilised.

And that’s really the nub of the problem here. The flat writing which doesn’t quite know whose side to take — show up the parents desperate for English-medium schooling, or point fingers at those who are inept gatekeepers of these bastions, or both, by sentimentalizing those who live below the poverty line as `good’ and `noble’ — turns this film much less than it could have been. The characters, including the one played by the very talented Deepak Dobriyal, become stock. And the climax, consisting of a sanctimonious speech, lets the film down.

hindi medium movie review, hindi medium review, hindi medium, hindi medium movie, Irrfan Khan, Saba Qamar, hindi medium images, Deepak Dobriyal Hindi Medium movie review: Deepak Dobriyal and Irrfan Khan in a film’s still.

Saba Qamar’s hyper mom who is happy to be a ‘chalta-phirta’ brand factory in order to get her well-shod foot in the door, gets some moments, but is made to repeat a few lines over and over again, and gets tiresome.

As usual, it’s the marvelous Irrfan who keeps us watching. His is a fine, well-judged performance, which rises above the lines. At one point, we see him cracking up while watching his favourite florid TV serial: in that moment, ‘Hindi Medium’ is glorious, because the actor catches what he’s meant to do, meant to be, gloriously.

What happened to that tone in the rest of the film?

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  1. A
    Anurag
    Jun 23, 2017 at 11:28 am
    you subhra gupta, How can you give this movie only 2 stars. You guys always give ty reviews _|_
    Reply
    1. S
      Suresh Bhuskute
      Jun 22, 2017 at 8:39 pm
      मुझे तो ये फिल्म बहुत अच्छी लगी। अभी जो हिंदी फिल्मे आ रही है उसमे ये फिल्म "चमकता तारा" जैसी है. बाकि सब फिल्मे कितनेभी करोड़ कमाने दो मगर ये फिल्म लाखो करोडोके दिलमें बस जाएगी। इरफ़ान खानके अभिनयके बारेमे लिखनेके लिए मेरे पास शब्द नहीं । लाजवाब, सुपर्ब एक्टिंग ।
      Reply
      1. N
        Nirmit
        Jun 17, 2017 at 11:22 pm
        This is what happens when you leave your brain in the refrigerator at home and go watch movies. Just proves that to get a good review you need to pay.
        Reply
        1. A
          Amit Dubai
          Jun 3, 2017 at 10:11 pm
          Shubhra Gupta needs to lighten up.. Indian express should fire her ...this is a great film.
          Reply
          1. M
            Mel
            Jun 1, 2017 at 10:05 pm
            I think its about who pays more wins.
            Reply
            1. A
              Amit
              May 31, 2017 at 11:33 am
              Worst review, the movie deserve much better. One of the best movie of the year, a rare family movie of recent time, great acting and great subject....
              Reply
              1. A
                abhakohli
                May 30, 2017 at 9:35 pm
                I saw this movie today itself and totally happy to know the directors view point and the way he has presented important Delhi and its important issues ,With great sense of humour and realistic approach its great ! 2 stars is not justified it really deserves much more . RTE makes rules for 25 seats in public schools ? Govt schools should be enough for govt to give free education after all we are paying edu tax as well and then seats of our children who have worked hard to be able to save enough for education of our children and than fee guity for taking away seat of ews child not justified . Why reservation at every level for SC,ST and ews just do not understand !!!general category children are running out of country because govt has no plans to educate them or provide reasonable facilities .
                Reply
                1. R
                  Rishi
                  May 30, 2017 at 5:36 am
                  Indian Express gives the worst reviews. They are overly critical of everything.. They've given Oscar nominated films around 3 stars.
                  Reply
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