If you would like to introduce your children to foreign films, I recommend “Like Stars on Earth” (Taare Zameen Par in Hindi). This heartwarming, Bollywood style film from India tells the story of 8-year-old Ishaan Awasthi’s (Darsheel Safary) struggles in school due to dyslexia, his parents’ frustration and attempts to discipline him, his journey to boarding school, and finally his fortunate encounter with incredible art teacher Ram Shankar Nikumbh (Aamir Khan).
Ishaan is a playful boy, who daydreams to escape the school work he finds to be so difficult. While his older brother is top in his class, Ishaan seems to get in problems wherever he goes. His parents are frustrated by his apparent apathy in school, and in a moment of exasperation they decide to send him to boarding school. Though Ishaan was the artist of beautiful paintings at home, he becomes depressed and homesick at school, and barely speaks.
At this point in the movie my children really identified with poor Ishaan, and said they felt very sorry for him that his parents left him. “Why couldn’t he get special help in school?” they asked. “Why does his mommy leave him?” We paused to talk about boarding schools, and how he would see his parents again.
Finally a new art teacher arrives to the school, and discovers that Ishaan’s challenges with dyslexia have held him back academically and socially. Talking with the headmaster, Ishaan’s parents, his class, and ultimately tutoring Ishaan, his dedicated teacher Ram Shankar Nikumbh (Aamir Khan) inspires Ishaan to use his incredible imagination and helps him celebrate his artistic talent.
What I love about this film, is that kids get a glimpse into a middle class Indian family, their home, school, playground games, snacks, etc. I also really appreciated that the dubbing in English is done by what appears to be the original actors voices. I loved hearing English spoken by Indian actors (with a variety of regional accents), yet they kept the wonderful songs sung in the original Hindi. The music, dancing, and colorful street scenes give us an introduction to the Bollywood tradition: Hindi-language, musical films made in the Mumbai film-industry.
Finally, here is one of the song-and-dance pieces from the film. This scenes shows the entrance of the new teacher, and you’ll see sad Ishaan not joining into the dance. In the DVD, English subtitles will appear during the Hindi songs. Enjoy!