Saw ‘Paa’ yesterday. I confess to being disappointed, not because I was expecting too much out of the film but because I did not expect so little.
Okay, I did not think the film would generate the same kind of interest around Progeria the way ‘Taare Zameen Par’ did around Dyslexia. Audience turnout was enough evidence of that. After watching the film, I understood exactly why ‘Paa’ could not and would not be classed in the same category as ‘Taare Zameen Par’.
‘Paa’ is caught up in its own compulsions. It has a sincere core but its execution is, for want of a better word, childish. Was the script sacrificed for commercial gains? What else would explain the almost tedious first half, which the director uses only to establish Amol Arte, the young Member of Parliament and the father of the unfortunate Auro, in such a manner as to make the audience forget what made them buy the ticket to this film in the first place? Balki uses up all of the first half of the film merely establishing Abhishek Bachchan’s credentials as an actor, doing little else as regards to storytelling, building up other characters and indeed, getting its own act together as regards what the message of the film really is.
Another blunder: too many sub-plots. It is all okay to develop the other side of a politician’s profile – the non-corrupt, sincerely-trying-to-help society one – but not at the expense of storytelling. Balki dwells at length on such issues as poverty, the grimy underbelly of politics, encroachment of government lands by slum dwellers, slum rehab, how the young ‘uns of the country have a lot to teach us all, single motherhood and most of all, how the media influences and shapes opinions without investigating the context of an issue. All of this, in an exercise to build up Amol Arte the Politician. Meanwhile, Auro appears in brief flashes, and so does his long-suffering mum. While I’m okay with the idea of tackling many issues at once, I’m not okay with certain biases that the director (who is also the writer of this story) inadvertently reinforces instead of dispelling through the very issues he tackles from a politician’s perspective.
Two minus points to Balki for the unwarranted media-bashing. I would expect a media personality such as Balki to successfully portray a balanced perspective on the media, and not join the circus where other storytellers (who scarcely know any better) pull out their boxing gloves on journalism in an effort to win wolf-whistles from the (largely uneducated) audience. Nishikant Kamat did it in ‘Mumbai Meri Jaan’ and in such a grossly lying fashion, I wanted to slap him. Balki would have done well to go one up and portray the truth, ie while a lot of media personalities and houses do have very corrupt elements that need to be thrashed publicly, there are a lot more journalists who are truthful, ethical and who are committed to the cause of honest journalism, no matter the cost.
Also, and this is criminal oversight, Balki does not much develop the character of Auro himself, the star of the story. Sure we get glimpses into the child’s personality, but I would credit that to superior acting and not to mature scripting. Amitabh Bachchan’s biggest victory as Auro is in making the audience forget who the actor behind the greasepaint is. Shah Rukh Khan would do well to study this character, and I’m not being sarcastic. For a man who has spent all his life literally towering over everyone else , it is no mean feat to be adorable and sharp simply as a twelve-year-old. Not once does Mr Bachchan come across as a 67-year-old playing a 12-year-old, which would have just been pathetic. I LOVED how Amitabh Bachchan invented a new personality, minus the trademark baritone, the graceful walk, the dignified expression.
Most importantly, and minus five points, the film does nothing to address Progeria. Okay, nobody wants a documentary on the subject, but how about showing us what the disease actually means for the sufferer and his family? It seems that the director forgets what he started out to show after the disclaimer on Progeria was flashed on the screen before the film began. The film only has brief moments where Auro suffers from breathlessness, collapses after exertion and even some dialogues where the child acknowledges the little life he has left. Apart from this, and when viewed in totality, the film could have had a child uniting his estranged parents under completely different circumstances – such as the child could be suffering from another disease – and I would not notice the difference.
Nope, I’m not happy. But oh, Vidya Balan, how beautiful you are! And Arundhati Naag, why do you not do more Hindi films?