Kaushik Roy's Apna Asmaan takes Khalil Gibran's adage 'your children are not your children' and examines what amounts to acceptance of a child's inadequacies and learning difficulties. A thought-provoking drama, it plays like a thriller but raises several existential questions about life and its meaning. How much is a child your reflection? What extremes would you go to in order to make your child a genius?
What is more important, love and true bonding in life, or success and emotional disconnect in a materialistic world?
Irrfan Khan and Shobhna play Ravi and Padmini, a middle class couple who have a young son named Buddhi (Dhruv Panjuani making an eventful and memorable debut), whose intelligence is rather low, but whose hand works magic with brush or crayon. When Ravi is not busy as a plastic salesman, he is indulging himself in a drink too many, reliving his guilt of having dropped young Buddhi while playing with him. Ravi believes that he is responsible for his child's mental disability, and loves his son all the more in his emotional upheaval. Waxing eloquent on the virtues of plastic, he goes through life in a plastic state, unable to emerge beyond his circumstance. But a scientist he chances upon while watching television promises salvation from his plight when he learns that there is an injection developed that can rid man of his mental disability. Anupam Kher plays Dr. Sathya, this messiah scientist whose methods are questionable but nevertheless results are guaranteed. Buddhi is then administered this medical concoction that transforms the young boy into a genius and the lives of the parents takes a new turn.
Buddhi becomes Aryabhatta, the central player in this story, whose intellectual growth is coupled with an emotional degeneration. Questions are raised about our own acceptance and tolerance levels, and the pressure we put children to in order to achieve our own aims and desires through them. Without giving away more of the story and its turns, Apna Asmaan is a film that has a cerebral motive; in today's competitive world, it serves as an eye-opener to what we succumb to in order to match our neighbour or colleague.
Are our pursuits driven by need or desire, want or greed? Roy's directorial debut takes on a subject that has a strong personal real-life influence, and deals with it deftly for a first-timer, with inspiration derived from his own son Orko. The performances are good, particularly Irrfan Khan who perfectly plays the father and the plastic salesman, torn with an inner turmoil that is calmed by drinking, even in the day while skipping work. His happiness is his child's happiness, not just at art but beyond in life and school's regular pursuits.
Mehboob's lyrics with Sukvinder singing 'Kar aisa kuch yahaan ki jeet le duniya re' is apt audio accompaniment to a tale of what success amounts to in life. A metaphorical gem that makes you ponder about your own 'apna asmaan'. Find it at a cinema near you.