“There are no bad students. Only, bad teachers,” Naina Mathur asserts, as she fights her own drawbacks and those of her students, in a desperate attempt at being accepted in a society that’s often unforgiving for being “different”.
Diagnosed with the nagging Tourette Syndrome, she’s faced rejection early on in her life. Twelve schools and 14 job rejections later, she doesn’t let the world crush her spirit. Determined to make a difference, she steps out and flaunts her “annoying stammer” without a care in the world. She soon finds a tiny army of young people from the slums to join her in the fight towards equality and acceptance.
Director Siddarth P Malhotra and writer Ankur Chaudhry’s adaption of Hollywood’s Front of the Class, is designed to give Rani Mukerji a glorious act. Her physical drawbacks are well etched and not exaggerated to tug our hearts, but is used to effectively show how some lives are more challenging than the others. Possibly one of those rare moments in Bollywood history where the medical condition is consistently showcased, and not misused for the tears!
Unfortunately, Hichki falters a bit as the writers fail to create solid acts for its supporting cast. Most of them are left to applaud Rani’s excellent and faultless performance over 118 minutes of screen time. So, you watch them appear and disappear at random, failing to make any real impact. One wishes these talented actors too had meaty roles to chew on. For instance, Neeraj Kabi, who earlier won us over with his spectacular performance in Talwar, steps in as a “bad teacher”, who refuses to look beyond the socio-economic boundaries. He’s restricted to play it in one stroke, and only reveals his true genius, unfortunately, towards the end. Supriya and Sachin Pilgaonkar appear in bits and are given very little to dabble with.
The children, especially Aatish (played remarkably by a very talented Harsh Mayar), could have been given more depth. Instead, the montage shots of the slums, or of its inhabitants struggling to make ends meet or find a future that’s devoid of poverty, appear forced.
The spotlight, therefore, shines entirely on Rani and her journey. Her acting credentials are impeccable and she lends immense credibility to Naina but let’s just say, Hichki is unable to create the magic that Sidney Poitier created in the British classic To Sir, With Love. However, it’s definitely one that will win over Rani’s fans.