There have been quite a few prominent films which have showcased the relationship between a student or a group of students and their teacher. While the west has churned out films like 'Dead Poets Society', India has made a few like 'Rockford' and 'Taare Zameen Par'. 'Hichki', starring Rani Mukerji in the central role, is based on the English film 'Front Of The Class', which was based on a book of the same name. This is Siddharth P Malhotra's second film as a director and interestingly, his first film 'We Are Family' was the remake of a Hollywood film ('Stepmom').
Naina Mathur (Rani Mukerji) has been suffering from Tourette Syndrome, a neurological disorder resulting in stammering and other kinds of motor tics. Despite trying for dive years and her application being rejected by different schools, Naina is determined to become a teacher. One day, she gets a call from St. Notkers, a prestigious school in the city, informing her that her job application has been accepted. The school Principal (Shiv Subramanyam) informs Naina that she would be given the responsibility of teaching the students of 9F, a class filled with trouble-making students from a nearby slum. The principal informs her that the school is obliged to teach these students because of the Right To Education act. No teacher has managed to teach these students for a long time and he wonders if Naina would be able to deal with them. Naina is confident that she will be able to do the job well and takes up the offer.
No human being is perfect. In the film, Tourette Syndrome serves as a wonderful metaphor for the shortcomings each one of us have and makes one believe that we can achieve all that we wish to despite a particular shortcoming or an issue being an integral part of us. In a scene from the film Naina tells hers father (played by Sachin Pilgaonkar) that this syndrome is a part of her and it is not something she is ashamed of. She has learnt to deal with it and people around her must accept it too. 'Hichki' roughly translates to hiccup but in this film, it is referred to as the shortcomings or hurdles that make an individual believe they are incapable of doing something they want to. As a teacher, Naina tries to make her students believe that they can achieve anything that children from a far more privileged background can. Neither have I seen 'Front Of The Class' nor I have read the source material it borrows its idea from. Despite resorting to some familiar tropes and offering novelty sporadically, I was thoroughly engrossed in 'Hichki' as it offered heart-warming moments in abundance. The interaction between Naina and her students, the familial bonds Naina shares with her mother and brother, everything lends itself to some great cinematic moments. The strained relationship between Naina and her father could have been explored much better.
Rani Mukerji is present in almost every frame of the film and she lights up the screen with her presence and unflinching command over her craft. Sachin and Supriya Pilgaonkar are very good as Naina's parents. Neeraj Kabi does very well as Mr. Wadia within the limited scope he gets. Among the kids, it is Harsh Mayer, who played the lead role in 'I Am Kalam' that leaves the most lasting impression. Hussain Dalal is very effective Naina's younger brother.
Despite not taking enough risks and adhering to a template, 'Hichki' turns out to be a vastly engaging film that serves up enough heart-warming moments to move you.