Secret Superstar review: A lousy fling at patriarchy that wastes talents

Secret Superstar review: A lousy fling at patriarchy that wastes talents
Hindi (U/A)

Director: Advait Chandan

Cast: Zaira Wasim, Aamir Khan, Meher Vij

Rating: *

Secret Superstar is an ill-fated attempt to tell the story of young singer Insiya (Zaira Wasim), who, despite her cruel, traditional father, uses YouTube to put up videos drawing the world's attention to her talents.

While the film is rightly ambitious in tackling the social evils of a patriarchal society, the execution is poor and unrealistic.

For a film that centres on the sufferings that women go through under patriarchal men, there should at least be some subtlety in its portrayal.

Insiya's father, Farooq Malik (Raj Arjun), is a cruel man who loves his son, but treats his wife and daughter like vermin. The character, though vital to the story, is rendered uninteresting as he comes on screen for little other than to break something or someone.

This two-dimensionality applies to the other characters as well. The earlier songs have picture-postcard collages of the family (sans father) that the director hopes to capitalise on. It would have been prudent of the director to have used that screen time to add more realism to his characters. While the casting is perfect, it is a shame that talents are not put to better use.

The director takes for granted that good and bad come in very neat two-dimensional packages. For instance, in an attempt to condemn the father, the social media, which provides an escape to Insiya, is portrayed as a dream world only of 'likes' and compliments.

The film overlooks the fact that women, irrespective of how talented they are, are subjected to sexism on the internet.

Secret Superstar doesn't care, as long as the dream-crushing father can be pitted against the dream-nurturing social media.

Even so, Zaira and Meher Vij must be applauded for their performances as Insiya and her mother Najma. Despite the saccharine sentimentalism the director has showered upon their roles, they make an impact. Zaira is an actor whom the industry can bank on to perform strong roles.

To save the best for the last, Aamir Khan is truly amazing as Shakti Kumaarr. Self-mockery is not something everyone does well, but Aamir proves he is one of the top players of the game.

The character is striking because he is excessive, and a lesser actor would have ruined it by bringing an excess to the performance as well, while Aamir measures it just right. However, Shakti Kumaarr deserves to be in a much better film than this.

The producers must create a spin-off for him, which would surely make a movie worth betting on, which Secret Superstar really is not.

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