This film doesn’t have a superstar like in Taare Zameen Par, neither does it have an item number like in Chillar Party. It does not have the preachy tones, the hamming, or the exceptionally mean adults of most Hindi children’s films as we know them. Yet Gattu stands tall, albeit on a handicapped foot. Gattu is not a fantasy, yet it’s magical. It is not a real life story, but it’s real, so real that you can touch it. And you will be touched too.
Technically, this review could be one line long. Gattu is a really wonderful, sweet film. You must go and watch it. There, you have the verdict. But it’s not enough, is it? Readers will want to know why. And so here are the reasons.
After his day at the school, Gattu lies on the floor of his tenement, twirling the long, long sleeve of his adult shirt in his hand, asking his scrap dealer kabaadi guardian uncle whether his father will ever be back? Or whether his parents would ever have sent him to school if they had lived with him? He sighs after he hears of how his father abandoned him. He is not stricken or sorry, just curious.
Gattu has wide, expressive eyes, unguarded looks, impish charm, and ambition. He runs around busily collecting scrap in the small bylanes in Roorkee. But his eye is on Kali, the monster kite who nobody in the city has been able to defeat so far. His dream is to katao Kali. But to do that he needs to be on a higher ground, the terrace of a school in the area. And thus, Gattu enters school, armed with a stolen uniform, a comic book and a self-made omlette sandwich for lunch. During classes, he keeps staring at the terrace, forbidden to the students, plotting how to reach it and defeat Kali. He does too, with a really bizarre schoolboy strategy with his newly acquired middle class schoolmates.
This is a warm, tender film although its conclusion and wrap-up a trifle too simplistic for the kind of depth it achieves through its build-up. The cast is perfect; fresh and fun.
Mohammed Samad is a rockstar, his Gattu is sweet and shrewd and utterly lovable. He steals, he lies, he cheats, he repents and he apologises. And he gets what he wants.
But of course by then we know the film is not about what Gattu wants. It’s about what we want for Gattu. It is about basic opportunities Gattu and, really so many children in our country, miss out on because of illiteracy, poverty and indifference. It is about the lack of security, emotional and financial, in their lives. But what is gratifying is that Gattu gets all that we want for him too. That’s where Gattu scores; that it makes us aspire to see him in all the children around us.