Secret Superstar

2hrs 30mins | Rated M | Violence & Offensive Language

Opening at the LIDO on December 7

Once again, progressively minded megastar Aamir Khan amplifies a young woman’s voice, it’s just that the process, in this instance, is literal. The voice belongs to Insia (Zaira Wasim, one of Dangal’s wrestler girls), a small-town teenager with big, primetime-TV-fuelled dreams of becoming the Indian Taylor Swift. Alas, her controlling, abusive father would prefer she grew up to serve him – so she takes the unusual step of uploading her tunes to YouTube in full burqa-clad anonymity, becoming a viral sensation.
The well-worn narrative furrow towards the limelight expands – as Khan’s best films do – into a consideration of several issues, from the internet’s transformative powers to a woman’s place in male-dominated households and industries: Khan, nearing Hanks-ish likability levels, is a joy as a preening producer struggling to throw off his “Mr Nasty” reputation. One surprise is that there are surprises come the third act, not least a tremendous raising of stakes with dad’s plan to relocate his clan to Saudi, threatening to turn our heroine’s makeshift disguise into a permanent prison.
Yet the whole film is elevated by Khan’s mid-career realisation that something renewing and emboldening might be gained in nudging cinema away from its default father-son stories: Meher Vij is very moving as the clan’s selfless matriarch – a Mother India for the Kris Jenner age – while the outstanding Wasim gives the most winning ingenue performance since Louane Emera in 2014’s not dissimilar French favourite La Famille Bélier. This is first-class entertainment, the best imaginable antidote to the toxicity presently leaking out of western movie circles.

The Guardian