Secret Superstar: Patchy underdog movie riding on Aamir's fame

There have been numerous films on a protagonist going against the tide to fulfil his ambition and childhood dream. Usually, in films, such aspirants come from second rung cities, small towns or mofussil India. That adds to the sympathy or the underdog quotient as the script’s requirement.

Just about every actor would have played at least one if not more such roles of an underdog hitting the pinnacle of success. Be it in the field of entertainment, industry or underworld. In fact, there have been some films made on real life heroes too who made it big from humble beginnings; some acknowledged some unofficial. The prominent among these include films on Neerja, MS Dhoni, Dhirubhai Ambani, Sachin Tendulkar, Milkha Singh, Silk Smitha, Capt Nanavati, Azharuddin, Phoolan Devi, Phogat sisters, Mary Kom and just about every pre-independence political leader and freedom fighter.

But, unless dramatised, these biopics don’t work. Compare with, for example, M S Dhoni: The Untold Story and Sachin: A Billion Dreams. While Dhoni worked with the viewers, Sachin was rejected. The reason was that Dhoni was scripted to appeal while Sachin went on the lines of a documentary.

Secret Superstar is not a biopic but goes on the same lines of one and one wishes it had taken cue from films like Dhoni or Mary Kom where fighting the odds includes a lot of hurdles and not just one impractical father’s illogical angry outbursts.

Secret Superstar is the story of a teenaged Vadodara girl from a Muslim family though the film makes no reference to her community throughout the film. The character of Zaira goes to a co-ed school, which the makers don’t care if it comes across as English, Gujarati or Hindi medium.

Zaira aspires to be a singer. Her mother, a supressed wife, had bought her a guitar when she was six. Zaira strums on the guitar when her father, played by Raj Arjun, is not around for he lives with the ghosts of Aurangzeb. Zaira can go to a co-ed school, mingle with boys, burkha is never forced on women of the house, it is just that she can’t cultivate her hobby.

Since Raj Arjun works in Saudi Arabia, to the relief of Zaira and her mother, played Meher Vij, he is away 11 months a year and they can live normal lives. Zaira has to give an outlet to her talent without letting her father know about her exploits. Meher Vij, always by her side, sells an ornament to buy Zaira a laptop.

Secret Superstar is also a teenage love story on the side. He classmate, played by Tirth Sharma, loves her and is always ready to go out of his way to help her. Zaira’s journey starts with Meher Vij and Tirth by her side. She decides to sing and post her videos on Youtube hidden behind a burkha hoping for her songs to work and be noticed. Her identity on Youtube is Secret Superstar.

Youtube plays one of the characters in this film as it may have been a part of many others stories too since its inception in 2006. Zaira is an overnight sensation on the social media and is also praised by film stars and others but, mainly, by a cranky music director played by Aamir Khan.

Zaira, the social media sensation, and Aamir Khan, on the last lap of his creativity, join forces and Aamir manages to create a new singing superstar out of Zaira in the process reviving his own career.

Secret Superstar has a predictable story that has been turned and twisted at whim. Glitches are left to pass throughout. The producer’s reputation for minor details is missing here. The first half is designed to be negative where one man is cast out of a 1960 family social film in Raj Arjun.

With fair dialogue, average production values, the film has decent cinematography. For the kind of theme and script the film handles, its 150-minute duration is telling on the viewer. For a musical about launching a new singing talent, the film’s musical score is lacking.

While Zaira carries the film on her shoulders, she is well supported by Vij and Sharma. Arjun is effectively terrorising. Aamir has made a caricature out of the music composer that he plays wearing gaudy T shirts tucked in jeans, the kind of costume tapori hero used to wear in 1970s films to cater to the what was described as ‘frontbenchers’. His execution of the role borders on buffoonery.

Secret Superstar comes across as a patchy film riding on the name of Aamir but hoping for the Diwali weekend to salvage it.

Producers: Aamir Khan, Kiran Rao.

Director: Advait Chandan.

Cast: Aamir Khan, Zaira Wasim, Meher Vij, Tirth Sharma, Raj Arjun, Kabir Sajid.

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