Bollywood raises rare toast to childhood with Taare Zameen Par | entertainment | Hindustan Times
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Bollywood raises rare toast to childhood with Taare Zameen Par

entertainment Updated: Jan 01, 2008 18:10 IST
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In a rare film focusing on children, Bollywood is delving into the world of a special child where the colours of flowers and kites hold more appeal than grades, but whose talent only a sensitive teacher understands.

A maturing audience has forced Indian filmmakers to break away from stereotypical escapist sagas about hard-won love and gory revenge to experiment with more prosaic issues.

As a result, there is more serious Indian cinema today dealing with themes as diverse as urban life and sports to politics, crime and physical disability.

But children and their world have up to now been largely neglected by mainstream Bollywood.

Taare Zameen Par, directed by Aamir Khan, one of Bollywood's top onscreen stars, aims to change that. Billed as a toast to children and childhood, it is Khan's first outing as a director.

The film is about a boy aged around eight with the learning disability dyslexia, who retreats into a shell rather than face a world of stiff parental expectation and academic competition.

At a boarding school where he is sent to be disciplined, he meets a teacher who doesn't expect him to score top grades and shares his world of colours, fish, dogs and kites.

"TZP is a film about children, not a children's film," Khan, whose film Lagaan won an Oscar nomination in the best foreign film category in 2001, wrote on his blog to promote the movie.

"It is aimed primarily at parents, and potential parents. Youngsters who in a few years will become parents."

Khan, who is sometimes compared by critics to Hollywood's Tom Hanks, appears in the film as the sensitive teacher. He says the making of "Taare" had enhanced his understanding of children, and even changed the way he thought about his own kids.

Known as a perfectionist who chooses his scripts with care, Khan's sensitivity is also drawn from overseeing the care of his younger brother, a failed actor with mental health problems.

"As we take on the burdens of adulthood we often gradually distance ourselves from our children, even our own childhood," he wrote about Taare, which he describes as "the most important film on children to come out of India".