Critic’s Rating: 3.5* / 5*
Duration: 2 hr 10 mins
Director: Siddharth P Malhotra
Dialogues: Ankur Chaudhary
Star Cast: Rani Mukerji, Supriya Pilgaonkar, Sachin Pilgaonkar, Harsh Mayar, Shivkumar Subramaniam, Neeraj Kabi
‘Hichki’ is a movie that is sufficiently poignant to have well-handled drama, without being too touchy-feely (well, there are exceptions which we will get to) and which pulls off (almost) handling a number of issues spanning society, education, and mindsets. A special teacher (with Tourette’s syndrome) lands her first job after umpteen tribulations. This first job looks to be her last, as she is blessed with a class that is famously notorious and incurably unruly. With some truly remarkable performances, a predictable but pleasantly surprising storyline, some decently done characters and the right intentions, Hichki is the proverbial heart-winner that you could surely go for.
Hichki’s story has been written by Siddharth Malhotra (NOT the actor), Ambar Hadap, Ganesh Pandit and Anckur Chaudhry. Hichki opens with the familiar but fresh twist on the underdog’s tale by introducing NainaMathur (Rani Mukerji) who is determined to land a teacher’s job despite having a condition that causes unpredictable and audibly loud vocal tics (sounds of ‘cha’ and ‘ja’ if you have seen the trailers). After scores of rejections, she lands up in Notker’s School where she incidentally had also been to during her school days. The school ties itself interestingly with her insistence upon being a teacher and also offers her a precarious position. Naina assumes the role of the class-teacher for the infamous ‘9F’ whose students hail from the nearby slums (whose inclusion in a large establishment like Notker’s is well explained) and have their own lives of struggles and warranted rebelliousness. With an arduous task at hand and a ready villain (Neeraj Kabi), Naina jumps through more than just hoops to make sure she is the guiding star for her students’ future. While the story has more arcs to it like Naina’s relationship with her father, the kids’ own redemption stories and some more, Hichki tries to attempt too many things in 118 minutes. That leaves some of the characters hanging around like pivot points and without sufficient development. The villain, for instance, is just, villainous. He wears a suit and he hence must hate every slum dweller with vitriolic malevolence. Yet the same guy has a change of heart when it is least warranted. Naina also employs interesting ways to teach her children. But what has she been up to from being a special child to being a super teacher? The story leaves these questions conveniently unanswered and asks us to turn the other way and look at the message of the movie (which is not that bad a thing to do).
Screenplay and Direction
The screenplay, written by the team of writers, really works for Hichki. From the scenes in the school and the principal’s room to the hallway encounters to the sneak peek into the daily lives of the children in the slum, the film is unassuming and consistent. There are hardly any overshot scenes save probably one where the kids finish their redemption arcs and sign up for team Naina. The movie also downplays a lot of otherwise rich soap-mines like the father-daughter conversations being rocky, or the mother is close to the daughter or the difficult lives of those who live in the slum. Director Siddharth Malhotra, adds drama in calibrated doses and that makes the intense scenes in Hichki shine. It would have helped to limit the drama in some the scenes (like the airplane scene for instance) where it was too easy to give in to the juncture in the story, but we understand the reasons for doing that. Hichki shines overall in the screenplay and direction arenas, with well-knit scenes and a smoothly unfolding screenplay that shows little haste (except for the tag end) even with the myriad mini-storylines going on.
Performances and Dialogue
Hichki was obviously serious about its acting business casting Rani Mukerji. As her comeback movie, Hichki is perfect in bringing the best out of her. She handles her Tourette’s syndrome enactment with conviction and consistency. We are sure that it would have taken hours, if not days of practice to build the vocal tics into routine dialogues. She handles everything presented to her flawlessly and we expected nothing less. After ‘Black’, the whole poignant angle (even with the twists) is familiar territory for her. Harsh Mayaris the other notable mention (sorry, Neeraj Kabi) who handles the role of a rebellious but good-hearted student immensely well. In a particular scene, he trades dialogues with Rani and shows that he is no slouch himself when it comes to the intensity-laden scenes or the ones drenched in dry tears. The other students of the unruly class are also sincere and likable.
The dialogues, done by AnckurChaudry, are also decently done keeping the largely low-drama profile of the movie intact. The dialogue writer is also instructed to do some dramatic writing in the more intense scenes which sometimes take things over the top but again, it’s forgivable. ‘Kya aap humara tara banenge?’ is one such dialogue whose corniness almost steals away the power in the scene. But the dialogue never really gets in the way of the scenes and the story, which is why they can be lauded.
Hichki’s music (by Jasleen Royal and Hitesh Sonik) is not especially memorable but it complements the scenes extremely well, sprinkling the necessary amounts of drama and inspiration. The title track, ‘OyeHichki’ is a great mood maker that hoists up the chirpy scenes in the movie at that point. ‘Madamji Go Easy’ has not-so-well-done lyrics but then it works when you juxtapose it with the backdrop of all the mischiefs being orchestrated by the kids. But if it’s good lyrics that you want then Jasleen Royal’s composed and sung, ‘Teri Dastaan’ stands out for its simplicity and earthy lyrics that are without any pretense or melodrama. Arijit’s ‘Khol De Par’ also breezes past in the scheme of things and you almost end up missing that it’s him. The background score is the staple drama infused inspiration infused soul-uplifting-feel-goodness that well, (you know the drill by now) becomes just an extra bit pompous during the tear-fests.
Hichki, as we said before, tries too many things and sees those things tottering towards the end of the movie. There is just too much drama and story for the length of one movie. The climax is also largely predictable and the story leaves quite a few unanswered questions (and not leaving questions unanswered for mystic effects). But no matter how hard you try to pick or nit-pick this one, you will shed a few tears here and there when the movie clenches your gut. The concept of education and upholding its sanctity has been commendably shown. The underdog’s tale is what stands tall amidst everything that Hichki dabbles in. Rani Mukerji is a treat to watch and so are the other kids. If you are willing to believe in the happy tale that Hichki has to tell (and believe us, you will), it is worth a watch and worth those sad and happy tears.