With the release of Hindi Medium, starring Irrfan Khan and Saba Qamar in lead roles, in the UAE on Thursday, Gulf News tabloid! takes a look at the Bollywood movies that have previously dealt with the education system in India — for good or for bad.

1. Taare Zameen Par (2007)

When you think of Bollywood movies challenging the traditional education system, the Indian National Award-winning film Taare Zameen Par must be mentioned. The film depicts the journey of a young boy, Ishaan, whose parents send him to a boarding school due to his poor academic performance. A new member of the faculty and art teacher Ram Shankar Nikumbh, suspects that he is dyslexic. The teacher’s guidance, belief in Ishaan’s talent and the special bond they share spread the message that every child is different and learns differently, which does not imply inferiority. The movie raised awareness on dyslexia and brought a fresh perspective to a learning disability that is not often seen in the industry.


2. 3 Idiots (2009)

A bold challenge to the Indian stereotypical mindset about education, one that discourages free thinking and creativity, 3 Idiots instils in you the determination to follow your passion as long as it makes you happy. The film advises you to not follow a traditional career path chosen by your parents, as many Indian students tend to do. Highlighting the lives of typical Indian college students with its comedic and heartbreaking moments, the message is to work hard and chase your dreams, not success. The film was also listed in the Guinness World Records for the record of the highest box office film gross for a Hindi film at the time, earning a total of Rs3.92 billion (Dh222.689 million) worldwide, according to Box Office India.


3. English Vinglish (2012)

Portraying the transition of a quiet, unassertive Indian housewife with an inability to speak English to a fully independent woman who gains self-confidence after taking classes to learn the language, English Vinglish is credited for bringing to light the feeling of social exclusion and embarrassment that many Indians face due to their inability to speak English. The film, preaching the ability to be self-confident, to move out of your comfort zone and to give in to the constancy of change in our lives, struck close to home for the largely Indian audience. It also sends the message that learning never truly ends.


4. Aarakshan (2011)

The movie Aarakshan, based on the hard-hitting reality of the Indian caste reservation system, tells the story of how a decision by the Supreme Court of India created a rift between students and staff at a college in Bhopal. The socio-political film is a satire on caste-based reservations in government and educational institutions in India. With roles including a member of the Dalit community and a high-caste Brahmin, it portrays both perspectives to the divisive caste reservation policy in the country.


5. Nil Battey Sannata (2015)

If translated, Nil Battey Sannata means ‘zero divided by zero equals nothing’, and is usually used as slang to mean ‘good for nothing’. Also known as The New Classmate, the movie leaves you with the sense of importance of education in our lives. Chanda, a high-school dropout, housemaid and single mother of a young girl who is on the verge of giving up on education, Apeksha, enrols herself in the same class as her daughter and challenges her: “Beat me in a math test, and I’ll leave the school.” The film focuses on a person’s right to dream and change their lives, irrespective of their social status. It also realistically shows the face of the education system of the country, and that a parent’s limitations need not stop their child from achieving success.


6. Chal Chalein (2009)

The film openly challenged the Indian education system, which is believed to cause academic pressures on students and may often lead to major psychological problems among students. Chal Chalein tells the story of a student who commits suicide, owing to parental and societal pressure to do well in school. With the help of a lawyer, his friends decide to sue his parents, the school system and the government. With its depictions of the lives of school-going children, like the budding writer who is forced to study physics and math, or the young artist who has no time to work on his art because of school and classes, the movie says that education is meant to enlighten students, not pressurise or traumatise them.


7. Chalk n Duster (2016)

Starring Shabana Azmi and Juhi Chawla in lead roles, Chalk n Duster is a narrative of the lives of two teachers Vidya and Jyoti, following the commercialisation of the Indian private education system. The teachers share a passion for teaching and a special relationship with their students. The film highlights how greed and profitmaking in the Indian education system can ruin the noble profession of teaching.


8. Paathshaala (2010)

Revolving around teachers and students on a school campus, Paathshaala comments on the shortcomings of the Indian education system. In the movie, a well-liked teacher leads a group of students and teachers in revolt against the school’s management. Another commercialisation of education story, the movie deals with socially relevant issues including the academic pressures and fears faced by students and the money-mindedness of the system.


9. F.A.L.T.U. (2011)

It is about a group of friends, after being turned down by every college they apply to, plan to start a fake college, called Fakirchand and Lakirchand Trust University (or F.A.L.T.U) to appease their parents. They are forced to transform it into a real institution after receiving applications from hundreds of students. The group of students, who usually while away their time doing nothing, is suddenly faced with the responsibility of their own lives as well as hundreds of others. Much like 3 Idiots, the movie propagates the message of turning your hobby into your career, and enjoying what you do. It also portrays how marks are viewed in the Indian society: if you don’t do well in school, you are seen as stupid. The movie ends with the so-called losers winning their fight against society in a dance competition.


10. I Am Kalam (2010)

Inspired by former President of India Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, an underprivileged child Chhotu follows his dream of gaining an education. He seeks help during his quest from Ranvijay Singh, a boy of his age and a member of a royal family. Focusing on the child’s pursuit for knowledge rather than his poverty, the film disseminates the importance of education, especially for the disadvantaged sections of society. With its realistic and optimistic elements, the movie stands for the significance of the basic right to education.

Saanya Lulla is an intern at Gulf News.