Indian cinema often grabs your heart. This Indian film will inspire. Actress Rani Mukerji is endearing as she plays a teacher who puts a pencil in her mouth and bites down. She has Tourette’s syndrome and is using tricks to offset her uncontrollable utterances. “Hichki” translates in Hindi to “ hiccup”. Our persistent protagonist sees her malady as just an air gulp to be swallowed as she pursues her goal to teach children. A goal, by the way, she pursues for twenty-five years, a thoughtful and idealistic addition.
Her goal did not start easily. Her father wants her working, and she has been interviewing for a teaching job for five years with no offers of employment. When a school does hire her, she has a class of fourteen, who smoke, pet rats, play cards and drink alcohol. They bet on how long she will last. They tease and mock her during roll call with her own tics. She goes with their stammering rap, and a bond is made. She rechannels their energy and stands up to their pranks. She differentiates “teaching them” from “ breaking them”. She uses her scooter for home visits, and sees the inequity in her class’ lives. Though she is hired by the prestigious St. Notker’s school, her charges are all from the slums and used to hit the quota of underprivileged demanded by the state. One mother describes her son in terms of jackfruit, hard on the outside, soft on the inside.
Our teacher, Naina, creates creative units on gambling, fire-crackers, and air plane flight. She tells her class to stop blaming their situations. They are all experts at something. “Your fears will be your strengths.” she intones. As one colleague tells her, “ You stammer from your heart.”
There are realistic episodes of cheating, expulsion, and truancy. A cloying sound track must be endured, but the joy of successful teaching is what will drop your tears.
Director Siddharth Malhotra and co- writer Anckur Chaudhry have a film that should be shown at teacher in-services to renew those professional sparks. Preceptures and awards aside, this classroom of students will warm your heart. Pole star guiding never was this touching. We are all in this together was never more sweetly displayed.