Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Like Stars on Earth

Every now and then a movie from "Bollywood," the thriving Indian movie industry, trickles over here to the U.S.  I haven't seen many, but they're generally thoroughly enjoyable.  You can count on them being pretty clean, and they always include extended musical numbers, which may or may not fit with the story and tone of the rest of the movie.  A favorite of mine, Lagaan, tells the story of some Indians who feel oppressed by their British colonial rulers.  They challenge the British to a cricket match, wagering the tax the British want them to pay.  It's a great movie, with wonderful history and social commentary, but they interrupt the story frequently with big song and dance numbers.

The star of Lagaan, Aamir Khan, also directed and stars in Like Stars on Earth.  Khan, who has starred in dozens of Bollywood films, plays a fun-loving art teacher at the boarding school where Ishaan has been sent.  Ishaan has failed his classes and angered his demanding father by skipping classes and not attending to his studies.  I love this portrayal of the struggles of a dyslexic kid with ADHD.  He tries to read, but the words leap off the page and the letters get all jumbled up.  He is distracted by every little thing.  Under the art teacher's tutelage at the new school his artistic talent is revealed, leading to an overall maturing, success, and reconciliation with his father.
Like Stars on Earth is a fun movie, affirming of those kids among us who live and learn differently.  As the parent of some kids who don't fit the typical mold of the "good student," I appreciated the sensitivity and joy with which the movie portrayed not only Ishaan, with his ADHD, dyslexia, and free-spiritedness, but also the physically and mentally disabled children at the art teacher's other school.

Yes, there are some lengthy musical interludes that don't really drive the story, making the movie longer than it ought to be.  (Maybe that's when India moviegoers step out for popcorn, or whatver they eat during a movie.)  But Like Stars on Earth is still an enjoyable film.

Bottom line, 2 1/2 stars.

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