By Zainab Lakhani for TwoCircles.net
The movie "Like Stars on Earth" is about an eight-year old boy who constantly gets in trouble. He is an introverted little boy who would much rather play with stray dogs than the kids in his neighborhood. He doesn't have the same urgency about life as the other around him do. Not bound by routine he'd happily miss the bus for a few more minutes of sleep full of limitless dreams.
Ishaan Avasti (played by Darsheel Safary) is much more different from his peers than his lack of social skills, he scores way below the average in all subject areas. His teachers and parents alike are frustrated with him and are at their wits end. They blame bad behavior, laziness and lack of discipline. Soon he is shipped off to boarding school in hopes of better discipline (however its more for his father's relief than anything else). Enter substitute art teacher Ram Shankar Nikhumb. "Nikhumb Sir," played by Bollywood super star Aamir Khan, quickly realizes the boy's problem and begins to enlighten the others. He is an art teacher at a school that caters to children with disabilities, and he also has first hand experience with dyslexia. Realizing that Ishaan has the same disorder, he works with him a few extra hours outside of school and soon the little guy is able to read and write with much less difficulty and spelling mistakes. Even math comes easier.
The message behind the movie is clear; do not dismiss a person because they are not performing at the same level as everyone else. Look for the underlying cause and work with it. Dismissal of Ishaan could have caused him to become much worse and he might have ended up being a drop-out. However, with a little dedication and some individual attention, he was able to thrive and his above average intelligence showed. He also was able to express himself through his paintings which were very mature for his age. Sometimes what a person can offer to the world is not mainstream or one of the major interest areas such as science or mathematics. Encouragement should be given where children excel, though it may be art or another area which isn't so lucrative.
Over-all this movie was enjoyable as well as possessing an underlying message without getting too preachy. Aamir Khan did a great job, though at times his inclination to shed tears at the drop of a hat was a bit much to take. If he had saved his tears for the emotional ending it would have been that much more impactful. However the moment the father realized how close he had come to losing his son by alienating him was quite powerful. Remaining stoic throughout the movie, his tears were very genuine and managed to elicit empathy from viewers like me.
"Like Stars on Earth" is an original Hindi (Bollywood) movie dubbed in English for the American audience and has been released here by Disney. The dubbing is done beautifully and there is barely any inconsistency with lip movements and voice overs as is so common in other dubbed movies from the east (we wont name names). Though adults will fully appreciate the moral of the story, kids can enjoy it too. It definitely has elements of humor that would appeal to a child. The American audience may not be as moved as their Indian counterparts. This is because this country has seen and understood people with disabilities and disorders and have already started to give them the support and extra guidance they need. However, the story as a whole will definitely spark interest and be the feel-good movie that is popped in the DVD player for a quiet night at home.
Remember: the naughty kid next door may not be bad, just misunderstood