Verdict - A satire that works well with good performances from the cast.
Hindi medium is based on our Indian obsession with sending our children to the ‘best’ English medium schools and the almost desperate lengths that parents will go to, to achieve this aim.
Irrfan runs a garment store in Chandni Chowk, stylishly called a ‘studio’ because it rips off all the well-known designers. He is happy with who he is, but his wife whom he adores totally, has higher ambitions. She fervently believes that unless their daughter studies in a prestigious English medium school, she stands no chance in life and may end up being depressed and a drug addict. The couple jump through various hoops in order to get their child into their dream school.
The movie is well paced and extremely engaging. It raises issues which concern all of us. The snootiness of upper-class English speaking Indians, the desire of the non-English speaking Indian to belong to that class, the clout that prestigious schools have, and the abysmal state of public education, all are dwelt upon. Maybe that’s taking on too many issues, but the movie addresses them all in an unhurried way, dwelling on each aspect in a hard- hitting satirical manner. It points out our weaknesses and yet is sensitive to the fact that our society and the world leave us with no choice but to succumb to these pressures. Also, the fact is that all these issues- class consciousness, business class v/s professionals, English speaking v/s vernacular, rich and poor are all linked to each other. There are hierarchies we live with formed due to these attitudes and there is no getting away from it.
This is perhaps where the movie falters in its conclusion. Its solution seems too simple and also more importantly, unlikely to happen. It builds up these convictions in you about right and wrong but then when you leave the theatre it is with a feeling that you wouldn’t take the steps the characters take in real life and that disbelieving shake of the head takes away the empathy and perspective you may have gained.
Irrfan Khan is stellar as the Chandni Chowk ‘business tycoon’ as his character calls himself. He is self-assured and displays a comic timing that suits the role. As a doting husband and an adoring dad he is lovable and you easily look beyond the bad English persona and find the heart of gold beneath. Saba Qamar as his wife has a brittleness that suits the role perfectly. Their chemistry works well and makes the movie watchable. Deepak Dobriyal puts up an impressive performance as the poor person from the slum with a good heart.
Hindi medium is a movie that shoves our prejudices and biases in our faces and rubs them in affectionately. It doesn’t talk down to you but our nervous laughter at the jokes tells us how close to home it is. I don’t think we as a country are about to give up wanting to be English medium people. In fact, a lot of us also sneer at the Chetan Bhagat brand of English as not being good enough. But yes, if it makes us rethink our notion that somehow an English speaking person is more superior to a Hindi medium ‘vernie’ then the movie has achieved its purpose. Dekhiye and enjoy!