Far from a teenager from conservative family-turns YouTuber-gets lucky-wins award, Secret Superstar addresses a key issue of our society that is often kept under wraps. In an age of instant gratification, wriggling out of a bad marriage isn’t a cakewalk for someone from our parents’ generation. Back then, they believed in repairing things rather than replacing them.
So, when the film’s teenage protagonist asks her mother to get rid of her abusive husband, she retorts asking, “Na to nikaah ke waqt mujhse poocha gaya aur na ab talaaq ke waqt mujhse poocha jaa raha hai.”
This line sums up the state of women in our country, no matter how ‘empowered’ we might believe them to be. Travel a mile away from the city or visit the mohallas and chances are you’d find multiple versions of a mother who accepts her fate of being in an abusive relationship and lets her daughter (if they survive the abortion due to want of a male child), too, lead a similar life. Fortunately, there are girls like Insia, who believe in writing their destiny, rather than submitting to their fate. Secret Superstar is about such a girl.
Zaira Wasim proves yet again that she isn’t a one-film-wonder and is here to not only stay but also earn a pride of place in the audience’s heart. The best part about her acting is that there’s no acting, but reacting to her circumstances – a feat difficult to achieve for every actor worth his/her salt. Even under a burqa, Zaira ably emotes with her eyes.
The other actor who leaves an everlasting impact is Meher Vij, who plays the mother’s role to perfection. During the film’s first hour, she wears a scar near her eyes. The scar gradually disappears, but the pain could still be seen in her eyes all throughout the film. The way she rebels with her husband in her own small ways and nurtures her children is indeed worth a mention. Thanks to the brilliant writing of Advait Chandan.
Writing, no matter how nuanced, can never create an everlasting impact without equally nuanced performance. One wonders how the mother-daughter duo got their acts so right and believable. Contrast their characters with the aggression of Raj Arjun as the menacing husband and father, and you already find yourself hopelessly rooting for Insia and her mother.
Even the endearing character of Chintan, the gawky teenager smitten by Insia, played by Tirth Sharma (Quite a find) hails from a broken home, and there’s not a single trace of remorse or self-pity in his eyes. Kabir Sajid Shaikh, as the kid brother of Insia is cuteness personified, garnering many a ‘aww’ reaction from the female audience.
The last, as the cliché goes, but not the least, Aamir Khan nails it as an over-the-top music composer (With attitude of Yo Yo Honey Singh and madness of Anu Malik). He is someone who has given in to the producers’ demands of churning out assembly line item numbers. It takes an honest audience like Insia to bring out the musician in him. Ironically, music is the Achilles heel in this music-based film, despite a name like Amit Trivedi.
Aamir Khan depicts the discovery of the lost musician in him in a scene where he emotes with no dialogues but just tears of joy. Calling him veteran would make him seem old, especially an actor who is aging like wine. On the surface, Shakti Kumar is a cocky, flirty and foul-mouthed celebrity, but beneath is a lonely man abandoned by his family and even the film fraternity.
Add to that the city where Secret Superstar is set in – Baroda. As a citizen of this BigLil City, one just can’t resist playing ‘guess the location’ – a distraction one wouldn’t really mind. Right from Akota, Sevasi (Written on the school bus), Sursagar, Bird Circle, to the railway station, as Insia would like to put – Vadodara looks so small, as compared to this whole new world that writer-director Advait Chandan creates on celluloid.
In hindsight, Secret Superstar is a tale of broken people mending their crumbling worlds.