Stars on Earth (originally Taare Zameen Par), a 2007 Indian film directed by Aamir Khan


Eight-year-old Ishaan couldn’t throw a ball, tie his shoelaces, or keep track of time; and he couldn’t read or write.  His father, thinking him rebellious, banished him to boarding school.  There, the story of Stars on Earth really begins when a great teacher, Ram Nikumbh, recognizes Ishaan’s dyslexia, teaches him with patience and creativity, and celebrates his artistic gifts.

The movie evokes an exhausting range of emotions.  At first there is only Ishaan’s isolation, his father’s rage, and mother’s despair.  As his grades improve with Ram’s help, Ishaan regains his smile, his father is consumed with guilt and hope, and Ram is vindicated as his unusual teaching methods (including multi-sensory strategies) succeed to the shock of “old school” teachers.  In the end, Ishaan and Ram triumph in a town-wide contest, and everyone radiates love and joy.  Some may be uncomfortable with this fairytale ending; and others may raise an eyebrow at the Bollywood musical numbers, animation, and characters providing comic relief.  However, Stars on Earth is not supposed to depict reality.  It is supposed to entertain, portray the essence of dyslexia, and share a message.

The reviewer (who mainly watches movies featuring explosions) was surprised to enjoy Stars on Earth. This film  made him laugh, rock out to music (in the privacy of home), ride an emotional roller coaster, and appreciate the need for cool teachers (with skills) for all students, not just those with learning differences.

Scott Fujiwara is a current college student.  For more info on Scott’s journey, please see the 2013 RiSE Award Winners.