Opening this week

‘Hichki’ film review: Rani Mukerji offers earnest lessons in helping the underdog to shine

The actor plays a teacher with Tourette Syndrome as director Siddharth P. Malhotra keeps the narrative moving along smoothly.

Naina Mathur (Rani Mukerji) is a trained and qualified teacher. However her various applications for teaching positions over five years have been unsuccessful. The primary reason is her speech impediment. Naina has lived with Tourette Syndrome since childhood, and made peace with it in adulthood. But the world around her, including her father (Sachin Pilgaonkar), is uncomfortable with the involuntary sounds and movements that emanate from Naina’s mouth. “Tourette is in my speech, not in my intellect,” she says.

Very early on, Naina (Rani Mukerji) educates a panel of school administrators, and the audience, about the nature of Tourette’s. When she bags a job commandeering a classroom of misfits, inducted into the school system under the Right to Education mandate, she educates the 14 delinquents (and us) on what it’s like living with a tic. The school principal (Shiv Subramaniam) has appointed an underdog to school division number 9F which is populated with underdogs who come from the wrong side of the tracks.

Naina’s path is not an easy one. Not only must she convince the school board, and her fellow teachers, of her abilities but also win over 14 cocky, disinterested, rebellious and disrespectful students who could be on permanent detention. “There are no bad students, only bad teachers,” she declares defiantly to her nemesis and colleague Mr Wadia (played villainously by Neeraj Kabi), a conservative and snooty educator.

Director Siddharth P. Malhotra keeps the narrative moving, without unnecessary side plots, focussing on the student-student, student-teacher and staff room politics. Naina’s daily life is shown through her interactions with her family which includes a supportive mother (Supriya Pilgaonkar) and brother. Avinash Arun’s lensing is delightful and the design and direction of the classroom scenes is wholly believable. (During an exam scene I actually felt the nerves associated with finals!)

Based on Brad Cohen’s memoir Front of the Class: How Tourette Syndrome Made Me the Teacher I Never Had (which was adapted into a film in 2008), Hichki is no Dead Poet’s Society, but there are scenes that will remind you of Robin Williams’s Mr. Keating and a class that saluted him with “O Captain! My Captain!”

Mukerji delivers an earnest performance incorporating the tics and involuntary gestures seamlessly into her portrayal. The school children and her colleagues offer indispensable support.

At times Hichki feels too righteous. Loaded with messages from equality, right to education, tolerance to a gratuitous walk through a Mumbai slum with the camera gingerly peeking into the difficult lives of class 9F. Fortunately the story is strongly underlined by the instances of the resourcefulness of the students and the idea that education should not be a one-size-fits-all concept.

Play
Hichki (2018).
Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Following a mountaineer as he reaches the summit of Mount Everest

Accounts from Vikas Dimri’s second attempt reveal the immense fortitude and strength needed to summit the Everest.

Vikas Dimri made a huge attempt last year to climb the Mount Everest. Fate had other plans. Thwarted by unfavourable weather at the last minute, he came so close and yet not close enough to say he was at the top. But that did not deter him. Vikas is back on the Everest trail now, and this time he’s sharing his experiences at every leg of the journey.

The Everest journey began from the Lukla airport, known for its dicey landing conditions. It reminded him of the failed expedition, but he still moved on to Namche Bazaar - the staging point for Everest expeditions - with a positive mind. Vikas let the wisdom of the mountains guide him as he battled doubt and memories of the previous expedition. In his words, the Everest taught him that, “To conquer our personal Everest, we need to drop all our unnecessary baggage, be it physical or mental or even emotional”.

Vikas used a ‘descent for ascent’ approach to acclimatise. In this approach, mountaineers gain altitude during the day, but descend to catch some sleep. Acclimatising to such high altitudes is crucial as the lack of adequate oxygen can cause dizziness, nausea, headache and even muscle death. As Vikas prepared to scale the riskiest part of the climb - the unstable and continuously melting Khumbhu ice fall - he pondered over his journey so far.

His brother’s diagnosis of a heart condition in his youth was a wakeup call for the rather sedentary Vikas, and that is when he started focusing on his health more. For the first time in his life, he began to appreciate the power of nutrition and experimented with different diets and supplements for their health benefits. His quest for better health also motivated him to take up hiking, marathon running, squash and, eventually, a summit of the Everest.

Back in the Himalayas, after a string of sleepless nights, Vikas and his team ascended to Camp 2 (6,500m) as planned, and then descended to Base Camp for the basic luxuries - hot shower, hot lunch and essential supplements. Back up at Camp 2, the weather played spoiler again as a jet stream - a fast-flowing, narrow air current - moved right over the mountain. Wisdom from the mountains helped Vikas maintain perspective as they were required to descend 15km to Pheriche Valley. He accepted that “strength lies not merely in chasing the big dream, but also in...accepting that things could go wrong.”

At Camp 4 (8,000m), famously known as the death zone, Vikas caught a clear glimpse of the summit – his dream standing rather tall in front of him.

It was the 18th of May 2018 and Vikas finally reached the top. The top of his Everest…the top of Mount Everest!

Watch the video below to see actual moments from Vikas’ climb.

Play

Vikas credits his strength to dedication, exercise and a healthy diet. He credits dietary supplements for helping him sustain himself in the inhuman conditions on Mount Everest. On heights like these where the oxygen supply drops to 1/3rd the levels on the ground, the body requires 3 times the regular blood volume to pump the requisite amount of oxygen. He, thus, doesn’t embark on an expedition without double checking his supplements and uses Livogen as an aid to maintain adequate amounts of iron in his blood.

Livogen is proud to have supported Vikas Dimri on his ambitious quest and salutes his spirit. To read more about the benefits of iron, see here. To read Vikas Dimri’s account of his expedition, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Livogen and not by the Scroll editorial team.