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Bollywood in the classroom: What’s common to Irrfan, Emraan and Hrithik?

With Hindi Medium (and its sequel), Cheat India, Super 30, and other films like these, the Indian education system is getting major screen time. Directors say that these stories need to be told, and analysts feel they have both novelty and commercial viability.

bollywood Updated: Mar 20, 2018 18:48 IST
Juhi Chakraborty
Juhi Chakraborty
Hindustan Times
Bollywood,Irrfan,Emraan Hashmi
A still from the film Hindi Medium, which was a major commercial and critical success in 2017.

Bollywood films with plots that revolve around the Indian education system — a field that has intrigue, scandal, action, tension, hooliganism et al in spades — are becoming more and more common.

The Irrfan Khan-starrer Hindi Medium, whose plot focused on Indian parents’ desire for an ‘elite’ school, shook up the box office and was widely acclaimed in 2017. This year, the buzz is around the Hrithik Roshan-starrer Super 30, on the life of education pioneer Anand Kumar, teacher, mathematician, and mentor to underprivileged children; and the Emraan Hashmi-starrer Cheat India, which was described as “a compelling, edge-of-the-seat drama inspired by real incidents in the Indian education system” in a tweet by the actor.

Soumik Sen, who directed Gulaab Gang (2014), is helming Cheat India. The Indian education system, according to Soumik, is “flawed” and that needs to be addressed. “In our country, securing a job is the most important problem and that’s linked to higher education. We load our children with degrees and there’s a mad rush to get into colleges. There’s this constant pressure to be better than the rest. Our education system is flawed,” he says.

‘Our education system is flawed. My upcoming film is for students who are under pressure to excel in a competitive environment’ — Soumik Sen, director

“My upcoming film is for students who are under pressure to excel in a competitive environment,” adds Soumik. The film’s title suggests that the plot might deal with desperate attempts to be crowned a ‘top student’.

In 2016, there were two education-oriented Bollywood films: Chalk n Duster, starring Shabana Azmi and Juhi Chawla, about the commercialisation of the Indian private education system; and Rough Book (2016), starring Tannishtha Chatterjee, on the division among students on the basis of their grades. The success of Hindi Medium has spawned a sequel, slated to go on the floors later in 2018.

Filmmaker Saket Chaudhary, the man behind Hindi Medium, says that he decided to make the movie as he wanted to showcase the desperation of parents for better prospects for their children and for their “better future”. He muses, “Education is considered a means of stability in our country. I feel more such films should be made, as these are relatively untouched areas. If more movies are made on them, then there’ll be more focus on the issues prevalent in the [education] system.”

Trade analyst Taran Adarsh feels that Bollywood filmmakers are taking up such subjects not so much to do an exposé on the education system but because they think the stories have novelty and commercial viability. “It must be exciting for filmmakers to talk about it. The subject must have appealed to them,” he says. “Also, if stars are ready to do such films, then I think it’s always interesting for filmmakers to take up such stories.”

First Published: Mar 20, 2018 18:46 IST