The film rides on Aamir’s shoulders.
The film rides on Aamir’s shoulders.

Secret Superstar movie review: Aamir Khan, Zaira Wasim’s film shines bright

Zaira Wasim plays an abused girl who finds a mentor in musician Shakti Kumar (Aamir Khan). Director Advait Chandan’s film has high emotional quotient. Here’s our movie review.
By Rohit Vats | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON OCT 20, 2017 09:13 PM IST

Secret Superstar
Cast: Zaira Wasim, Aamir Khan, Meher Vij
Director: Advait Chandan
Rating: 3/5

Inside a studio in Mumbai, a foul-mouthed musician struggles to record a song as per his producer’s wish. It is a tune he composed a decade ago, but his songs have been reduced to being mere remixes of his own original tunes over the years.

It seems like a trap he would never escape.

And then he hears a voice, the voice. For the first time in years, he refuses to compromise on his composition and delivers a song that’s going to introduce the world to a new artiste, somebody who isn’t willing to show her face. A secret superstar.

Insiya (Zaira Wasim) isn’t a bright student. She is struggling with her studies, her rage, domestic abuse, and an environment that may not let her take the leap of faith, ever.

Insiya thinks the world of her mother, Najma (Meher Vij). Together, they dare to dream of the times when they’ll stand on their own. But Insiya’s middle-class household in Vadodara is reeling under the terror unleashed by her violent father, played by Raj Arjun. Being financially dependent on him, years of conditioning have weakened the family. But they aren’t broken yet.

Watch: Our Facebook Live discussion on Secret Superstar and Golmaal Again

Insiya is quite mature for her age. She tries her best to convince Najma to go in for divorce. Given her condition, it seems like the right decision. she is aware of her singing talent, but she doesn’t have a plan of action. Director Advait Chandan tries to reason this out in one of the scenes, which has Zaira Wasim saying that the destination should be decided before the route.

The opinionated yet vulnerable teenager catches the attention of Shakti Kumaarr (Aamir Khan), a loud and two-time divorced Bollywood musician. Though theirs is an odd pairing, they could just come up with a winner of a song.

Secret Superstar proceeds at leisure. Running over 150 minutes, it has the luxury of establishing the disturbing circumstances existing in Insiya’s conservative household. While the family tries to support each other, the patriarchal father beats them, taunts them for being failures in life, and shows love only to the son. He seems straight out of a ‘70s movie, but can we really deny the existence of such people?

Such stereotypical characters not only tell the audience what to expect but also hammer down the central idea of a girl being the underdog. Naturally, we begin considering Insiya’s father as the villain. Probably it’s the director way of balancing the story.

A well-meaning yet ambitious girl, a cruel father, a meek mother, and a loving younger brother. This movie has all the ingredients, with the exception of the comic character. And then, along comes Shakti Kumaarr and charms his way into the audience’s heart with his antics. You have seen some of it in the trailers, and the extension isn’t a lot different.

Despite being hinted of as a good guy in isolation, Aamir Khan never leaves the basic traits of the boisterous musician he enacts. That serves the film, considering how it starts looking tonally different in the second half.

Advait Chandan then introduces a cute school love story between Insiya and her friend Chintan (Tirth Sharma). He is more of an ally who tries to validate the director’s ideas of separation in marriages. It works to a limited extent, but such frills take the spotlight away from the central character.

Actually, it’s Aamir Khan’s arrival in the film that adds charm to Secret Superstar. His superficiality and self-obsession evoke smiles. He controls the flow of Secret Superstar before it becomes a public service message on domestic violence.

The theme of an abused girl taking to music and the internet is intriguing. We are on Insiya’s side the moment we see her fingers caressing the guitar strings. Her dreamy eyes have stories to tell and we become aware of her often wavering self control. She punches the wall in anger and throws her laptop on the road. All this shows how the writer has taken care of her character, but he fails to do the same to other characters that are mostly monotonous.

Nothing wrong in being unidirectional but a drastic change of temperament comes as a jolt in such situations. For example, Najma’s sudden change in stance appears forced.

Also, the film has a typical Bollywood texture. Loud background score, slow motion running and a climax that’s not hard to predict. Secret Superstar is mostly about the evolution of a ‘hero’.

Secret Superstar’s biggest asset is Aamir Khan. His comedy despite being slapstick in nature, is worth noticing. Zaira Wasim lives up to the expectations and the film has a message. In short, Secret Superstar has everything you ask for, but it isn’t exceptional storytelling.

If there is one thing that can be blamed for it, it’s the overt melodrama. Imagine the same film without Aamir Khan and you’ll realise how Shakti Kumar has overpowered the real Secret Superstar and hence the theme of the film.

Secret Superstar will still make you laugh and cry with ease. Show some appetite for drama and you have an entertainer at your service.

Interact with Rohit Vats at Twitter/@nawabjha

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