I did not watch “My Name is Khan”. I just didn’t. I’m not sure I had a rational excuse. I could ascribe not watching to the “hype” condition – a condition in which I do not give two hoots about anything that I believe has been overhyped or is too much in everyone’s face. I wish I had watched. I can now see what people must have seen in the movie. I can now picture clearly in my mind, why dozens of students were moved – deeply so – by watching Aamir Khan depict an autistic man struggling with a world of injustices and unjust stereotypes. There’s only so much I can say about My Name Is Khan without sounding like a fraud, because, as I stated above, I did not watch it.
What’s the purpose of my crying/lamenting/regretting, you may ask. Well, I did watch Like Stars On Earth. Produced by Aamir Khan, this movie involves a little boy to whom letters and words in books always appear to dance. All the motherly love and misdirected tough fatherly love cannot get through to this boy. He stinks up school so bad that he is sent to a boarding house, where he becomes progressively worse until the new Art teacher with a passion for special kids discovers the little boy and his problem.
You will have noticed I mentioned “misdirected tough fatherly love”. This is the second major theme of the movie, and it relates a lot to me and a thousand and one kids the world over. I am not dyslexic. The little boy in the movie was. However, my father had a vision for me, a vision I keyed into despite glaring evidence that it wasn’t the way. My father decided he wanted me to read Medicine, because I appeared calm and reserved. My father is a lawyer and is quite the talker. I appeared reserved to my father because I was scared of him, and he never would have seen the troublesome me amongst friends. I was somewhat notorious in high school, showing the extent of the misconception my father had about me. Unfortunately, the science class was where all the fame was, with the amount of competitions you get to participate in if you appeared to be talented like I was. That was my second major problem. I was an all-rounder as per academics and I wasn’t found wanting in science. In fact, I led my class. I could so easily have led my class if I had opted for the Arts or the commercial class, and I would so much be better for it if I had opted for the less heralded Art Class. I had missed it early in life, just like a lot of kids have and still will because of parental misguidance.
Enough about me. The true heroes of this article are Mr Aamir Khan and the new Art teacher in the movie. The new Art teacher recognizes the pattern in the little boy and sets about helping out, despite the father’s best efforts to continue to misunderstand the issue at hand. The little boy could not read and write as he was dyslexic, but the father was concerned about how the boy was going to compete in life, as he didn’t want to take care of him forever. However, this concern centred around making him into a doctor or an engineer and other such “visible” careers. This is a boy who was super-talented in painting. What his meddlesome father was concerned about was ROI – Returns on Investment.
Aamir Khan though, I feel should win a Nobel Prize for Humaneness, if such a category exists. And even better than awards, he would have lived a fulfilled life knowing that he touched lives all across the world. If you haven’t seen the movie (Like Stars On Earth), please do.
Mr Khan wades into issues perhaps considered taboo (for the screen), telling his stories with such passion and compassion that I was moved on several occasions. Issues like dyslexia, autism, and other neurological disorders are the main focus of Mr Khan’s movies, and I imagine he does this to draw attention to these issues; issues that might normally be swept under the carpet, especially in societies such as India’s and much closer to home, Nigeria’s.
This movie appealed to a side of me I didn’t know existed, a side of me that wants to do something for the world, something special, for the special children of this world. This movie appealed to my fatherly instincts so much I saw – in front of my eyes – myself and my kid, even kids, or better still, my family. I saw myself being a different type of parent. I saw myself being a parent our times called for, a parent that could help a child discover his way in the world, and not try to foist a way upon him or her. It challenged me that very early Tuesday morning of September 2011.
I do not promise that I would remember how much this movie touched me and part reinforced my view of parenting, but I do know occasions like this continue to chip away at the framework of “hereditary parenting”, and build in its place, the framework of parenting that works without undue pressure of the young.
I admire the renaissance Bollywood has gone through with directors such as Danny Boyle and producers and actors such as Aamir Khan. It is truly astonishing what they are achieving given that not too long ago, all we knew them for were excessively long movies with lots of sing-song-dance-prance scenes and lots of police-and-thief/romantic movies. This is also another reason why I will continue to dislike Nollywood for most parts. Nollywood does not do what I would like it to do, which is search out issues and tell stories that will move whilst at the same time motivating its audience – even by the tiniest fraction – to do something for our society. Cancers, the HIV scourge with its attendant problems of stigmatization and victimization, disease, education, and even neurological disorders, believe it or not. We’ve done a good job of deceiving ourselves that it doesn’t happen at home. It does happen. All you have to do is open your eyes.