Secret Superstar — the best film of 2017
Disclaimer: Secret Superstar is the best film of 2017 according to me. There are certainly good films such as Death in a Gunj (good film making), Kadwi Hawa (important social message), Toilet ek prem katha (commercial film with a social message), Qarib Qarib Singlle (good film making and realistic, my wife’s favorite film of the year), Newton (important political/social message), Shubh Mangal Saavdhan (film with a social message about a taboo topic), Hindi Medium (film with a social message), Ghazi Attack (technically well executed and patriotic film) and of course Baahubali: the conclusion. There were some other good entertaining films like Jolly LLB 2, Kaabil, Bareilly ki Barfi, Golmaal Returns and so on. Moreover, I haven’t watched some other good films of 2017 (Anarkali of Aarah, Poorna, Mom etc.)
Secret Superstar is the best film because of the following:
- Relevant theme: The most beautiful thing about this film is that it not only talks about themes relevant today, it also shows how the desire to do something for someone you love can bring out that courage in you that you never knew you had. The daughter shows courage and tries to take some chances to improve her mother’s life, and towards the end her mother does the same for her.
- Excellent storytelling: The incredible part is that the movie had multiple themes (mother daughter love, domestic violence, personal aspirations, a chance at redemption etc.) but all of them were well knit into the narrative such that nothing feels out of place or forced. Moreover, I loved the part that it wasn’t the protagonist who finally resolved the issue, but it was her mother because her mother had the power to do it all along, she just had to realize it. Thus, this was different from the usual template of storytelling where the protagonist grows as a person and experiences shift in their character. In this movie, it is the supporting character who experiences that growth, for the sake of her children she takes that big chance and walks away from a well-settled but an unhappy life.
- A memorable ending: I particularly loved the line from the climax scene when the mother is walking out of the airport with her children and the airport security lady says, “Madam ek baar yahaan se bahar nikle toh waapis nahi aa sakte” (Once you leave through this gate, you won’t be able to come back), and she replies, “Iss behtar aur kya hoga!” (Would there be anything better than that!). I also loved the scene in which Insia takes off her burkha to reveal her face and the whole nation gets to look at the Secret Superstar. This scene is so important because it is symbolic of her breaking away from the oppressive culture she was brought up in which didn’t allow her to dream and create her own identity and fulfill her own dreams. This was the moment I felt the goosebumps.
- Incredible performances: I can go on and on about how incredible each actor was. And I’m not talking about Zaira Wasim (Insia, the protagonist) or Meher Vij (her mother, the supporting character). I’m talking about Raj Arjun (her father) who was a good theater actor but a struggling actor in Bollywood looking for a good role. His portrayal of the protagonist’s father is one of the best negative roles I’ve seen in my life, mainly because it wasn’t dramatic and the fear he invokes in everyone is the familiar fear we all felt as children when our father or mother scolded us or even slapped us in anger. The familiarity of the fear and his ruthlessness is what makes him a great antagonist who is perhaps the main reason for protagonist’s risky decisions in the film (more on that here: https://medium.com/@abhisainani/secret-superstar-choosing-the-lesser-devil-f0f6ff07227d). I also really enjoyed the performance of Insia’s best friend played by Tirth Sharma (Chintan). His greatest quality was his optimism in every dire situation, and after her mother, he was her greatest support in her life and helps her in all her efforts. Aamir Khan, certainly was amazing in this new kind of role that gave me some genuine laughs.
- Good songs: The songs were good but not great. And the main strength of the songs was the voice of the female singer. This seamlessly gels with the overall structure of the film because this film is about an amateur singer, not an established one. This gives the film a realistic feel. Despite that Main Kaun Hoon is my favorite song from 2017.
Padmaavat had an incredible box office performance worldwide after its delayed release due to controversies. And when I searched for its position in top grossing bollywood movies worldwide, its position was 10th which is quite good. What shocked me was Secret Superstar was in 4th position!!
How can a small budget (15 crore) movie with only one known actor (Aamir Khan) in supporting role and limited marketing be in 3rd position, behind Dangal and Secret Superstar! I’ll give you a hint before I reveal the reason. Dangal was a huge hit in India but couldn’t go beyond 700 crores even in worldwide collection. Then Baahubali: The conclusion released and took the box office by storm and had earned 1500 crore within few weeks and was the highest grossing bollywood movie ever worldwide. Then Aamir Khan productions did something incredible (maybe they had planned it in advance). They released Dangal in China. And from about 700 crores, Dangal became the highest grossing bollywood movie by grossing about 2100 crores, 30 times its budget!
Yes, you guessed it right. Aamir Khan released Secret Superstar in China and the film grossed… it grossed… I don’t think you’ll believe it, even I couldn’t believe it at first and had to rub my eyes and read it twice to confirm whether the figure was correct. Secret Superstar earned Rs. 750 crores in China alone! This means it had a return of investment of 3000% (Source: Wikipedia).
This proves that good films can also earn well when people see familiar faces (Zaira and Aamir) in the movie. That’s how Chinese box office miracle happened. That’s why I feel really angry when so called superstars work in shitty movies when they can easily make good movies themselves!
Kudos to Aamir Khan production team and the smartness of Aamir Khan in selecting the right scripts and the right cast and crew. :)