films, which demonstrates far-reaching implications for how we
categorize teachers across cultures.
While not many Bollywood films focus solely on education,
school, or teachers, one particular film, Taare Zameen Par, prioritizes all
three. The 2007 movie, produced and directed by Aamir Khan, follows
the life and struggles of a dyslexic boy and an art teacher who helps him
overcome his disability, which is seen as socially taboo. The movie
highlights the problem of the social stigmatization of learning
disabilities and questions the current Indian education system, one that
focuses on discipline and competition. Ram Shankar Nikumbh (also
played by Aamir Khan), the art teacher, is starkly different from all the
other teachers in the movie, contrasting their standardized curriculum
and harsh teaching style. Nikumbh, portrayed as a dynamic and
compassionate teacher, fits the criteria of a good teacher, proving that
The Hollywood Model is not exclusive to Hollywood.
The Movie
Taare Zameen Par is a Bollywood movie centered around the life
of a nine-year-old boy named Ishaan Awasthi (Darsheel Safary). The
film begins with a teacher listing the grades of her students aloud. Most
students receive high grades; she hesitates on Ishaan’s grade, however,
and states disappointedly, “Ishaan Awasthi, three out of twenty-five.”
Right from the beginning of the movie, viewers get the sense that
Ishaan is not doing well academically, and the first hour of the movie is
dedicated to solidifying this idea. Ishaan is a disappointment to his
parents, teachers, and even his peers, who seem to flourish in the
discipline-centered education system in India. Always aloof and
daydreaming, Ishaan fails to meet the standards set by his school and
further mishaps lead his parents to send him to boarding school.
Despite his failing grades, Ishaan has a vivid imagination, which
he channels into his art. What is apparent to the audience but not to
Ishaan’s parents, teachers, or peers is that Ishaan is struggling to learn
rather than unwilling to learn. His learning disability is overlooked, and
his poor academic performance attributed to him being unmotivated
and lazy. Against his will, he is sent to boarding school where the
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