Taare Zameen Par – An inspiring movie about a dyslexic child


taare zameen parThis is the first movie I’ve seen in my life so far, that is both entertaining and educational. Every scene is so rich in colors and emotions that it captivates your interest very easily.

The title of the movie – ‘Taare Zameen Par’ means ‘Stars on the ground’. Children as referred to as the sparkling stars on Earth. Each child is so special. Do we realize this when we scold them for not doing this or that, or for doing this or that? Do you we realize this when we crush them with our adult expectations instead of letting them to live free and express themselves in their unique way?

All the characters in this movie have acted so well, especially the young protagonist Ishaan Awasthi played by the incredibly talented Darsheel Safary. I still can’t believe how someone so young can act so well in front of blazing camera-lights and so many camera-men. Watching him is the highlight of the movie, since the movie is all about him.

The movie starts in a very colourful way with animations. Children will simply love this part. It will unleash the creativity and imagination that we kill within ourselves as we grow up, thanks to our current education system that only encourages the use of the left-brain skills like words and numbers and discourages the use of imagination.

Children are born with a very active imagination and this movie makes us aware of the colourful and fascinating world of children. As parents, it reminds us to be more sensitive to their world. We should encourage them to talk about their colourful world and their fantasies and delight in their creativity. We should encourage them to paint their colourful visions, the way Aamir Khan (as the art teacher) does in the movie. We can learn from children – lessons that we forgot as we grew up.

Dyslexics typically have highly well-developed right-brain skills like imagination, creativity, rhythm, movement, colour, exaggeration and senses. In fact, at birth all of us have the potential to develop a high level of both the right and left brain skills. It’s all upto us how we train and develop these skills during the course of our life. The more we train, the more they develop. The less we train, the more they decay. In the case of dyslexics, the left-brain skills, especially the skill that deals with the understanding and use of alphabets is not well-developed. So they struggle to learn alphabets and make repeated mistakes while writing and reading words, if they’re taught in the conventional way.

They need special training – a training that involves all the skills of the brain for better recall. In fact all training should be done this way, if we wish to optimize the use of our brain during learning. So, what Aamir Khan does to train the young boy is, he makes the young boy write the alphabets with his finger tip on sand. This way, the sense of touch and movement is involved in the learning process. He also says the alphabet aloud at the time of writing, thus involving the sense of sound. He then writes the alphabets on his forearm and asks the kid to guess the alphabet from the sense of touch. This again reinforces and develops his learning through the sense of touch. Thus, more connections of understanding are formed in his young brain. He makes the child write the alphabets on very large squares and then gradually reduces the size of the squares, till the child is finally able to write the alphabets neatly in the normal font size on standard ruled paper. To teach addition, he writes the numbers to be added and the answer on corresponding steps in a staircase. For example, 2 is written on the second step from the floor. 5 is written on the fifth step from the floor. When Aamir asks, what is 2+3, the child counts 2 steps and reaches the second step. Then, the child counts 3 steps and reaches the fifth step and reads the answer ‘5’ on the step and shouts exultantly, the correct answer ‘5’! This is a very creative way to teach addition. It involves ‘movement’, and kinaesthesia – an awareness of space and thus makes the learning very memorable.

In one scene, the child is forced to take a math test. The first question on the paper is 3+5=?
The child goes into his world of fantasy. His mind naturally associates the numbers with objects of interest to him. He has learned about the nine planets with a lot of interest and curiosity (obviously!). So when he sees the number ‘3’ on the question paper, he automatically imagines himself as the pilot of a spaceship. He is zooming through space. He sees the Sun and the planets very vividly, in bright colors, with faces and with voices! He decides that he must catch hold of the third planet from the Sun, which is the Earth and drop it on the fifth planet from it, which is Neptune (it is also the eight planet from the Sun, and the correct answer to the mathematical question is 8! So, even though the student is going to end up with the wrong answer, it is not because he is dumb or unintelligent, but because he is extraordinarily creative and imaginative as all of us should be, and because he has not been taught addition properly and in an interesting way!). He drops a hook from his spaceship, which attaches to the Earth with a vacuum pop and he accelerates his ship towards the eight planet Neptune and releases the vacuum hook, dropping the Earth on a collision course with Neptune! The planet Neptune cannot withstand the collision and shatters into a thousand pieces. The position of Neptune is now occupied by the Earth, which is the third planet from the Sun. So, the correct answer to the question 3+5=? in the child’s mind, is of course 3! And he writes the answer on the answer sheet with a smug smile and brimming with pride! And the bell rings! His friend who had seen him scribble the wrong answer (the rest of the answer sheet is blank, of course!), asks him how the test went, and our hero declares proudly and happily – “Bindaas!’ (Bindaas means ‘classy’, ‘simply superb’).

Do you now realize how we adults stifle the child’s creativity? I can perfectly relate to this experience of the protagonist! I had many such experiences(can you believe it?)! As late as in 12th grade! I couldn’t understand anything of what my teachers taught me in 11th and 12th grade in mathematics, physics and chemistry. So during the exams, I couldn’t understand any of the questions in the question paper. So I would cook up stories and write them in the answer sheets. By the time I finished one story, the bell would ring! I used to get marks like 1 and 4 out of 100! I barely managed to pass the 12th grade exams though, and that was the first time ever that I passed an exam in 12th grade!

To give you an example, there was a question like this in my 12th grade physics test:
“What is a vibration magnetometer? Describe the experiment to determine……..(something, I don’t remember what)” Of course I had never even heard of the ‘vibration magnetometer’ even though I had not missed a single class and my physics teacher must’ve definitely taught about it in class. What to do, she used to be such a boring teacher. She would just drone on in an uninteresting voice, and write lots of equations on the blackboard. I was just normal and my brain just couldn’t pay attention to her, since she was straining my brain by forcing me to use only the ‘word’ and ‘number’ skill of my brain, while expecting me to ignore the other active parts of my brain like imagination, exaggeration, color and movement. It didn’t work. My brain would start day-dreaming. It’s not unhealthy to day-dream, please understand! It’s a natural behaviour of the brain! If somebody asked you to walk on ONE LEG ONLY, how long would you do it? You can hop two or three steps, before you can’t take the strain anymore and would put the other foot on the ground, right? Same thing happens with the brain in a boring lecture class. The lecture class forces you to use only one or two skills out of over 12 skills of your brain and it is very strenuous for you. You automatically end up using the other skills and since you’re not given any guidance on how to use those other skills on the topic under discussion, you use it on whatever interests you instead! Thus you start day-dreaming! Coming back to my experience with that magnetometer question, I imagined the experiment very vividly in my mind and wrote the answer something like this:
“The vibration magnetometer is a very useful device used to measure forces. It consists of a magnet suspended above a meter scale. The magnet is made to vibrate by a known force and the displacement is noted and calibrated on the meter scale. Using the calibrated meter scale, any unknown force can be read directly from the scale.” Like Ishaan Awasthi, I too was thrilled by my creativity at the end of the exam, and like Ishaan Awasthi, I too got marks like 2/100! The only difference was that Ishaan was 9 years old and I was in 12th grade!

Even now I’m considered brilliant in solving physics problems, and yet I cannot clear any entrance exams to pursue research in physics which is my dream. The reason is that I find mathematics such a difficult hurdle to overcome. It is so abstract and requires the use of only one skill. It is such a strain on my brain that I am not able to learn the subject on my own or from teachers. I have developed a strong dislike for mathematics. But now I am trying to overcome this mental block. Now there are animations available that help us to visualize maths to a certain extent.

After seeing the movie, I got very inspired to become a teacher like Aamir Khan (he plays the character of art teacher Nikumbh in the movie). He makes an entry to the classroom dressed like a colorful joker and sings and dances his way into the hearts of the students. After watching the movie, I’ve got a strong desire to revive my interest in painting. After getting sucked into the race for survival in this cut-throat competetive world, I had given up on painting as a futile activity, since it doesn’t ‘pay’. Now I realize that I am only destroying my brain by not using those skills all the time.

Tony Buzan’s works have made me understand the importance of using all the skills of my brain to every act I do so that I can have maximum recall (good memory), which will in turn help me to be more creative.
I urge all of you to watch this movie, since you can learn a lot from it, in addition to having a lot of fun.


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