REVIEW | ‘Secret Superstar,’ melodramatic and contrived

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"Secret Superstar."

The low-budget Indian musical drama “Secret Superstar,” reportedly one of the top-grossing films worldwide, tells the story of a young girl, Insia (Zaira Wasim), who dreams of becoming a professional singer. She’s got the talent, a pretty face, and a supportive mother, Najma (Meher Vij). The only thing holding her back is her abusive father (Raj Arjun).

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Insia grows up in an Indian-Muslim family witnessing her mother frequently suffer from domestic violence. As a female, Insia is also not spared by her father’s punches. Her only joy and escape from the pain is music; singing and playing her guitar—which her father is pretty much against.

Insia’s dream of becoming a singer becomes closer when her mother secretly gives her a laptop, where she starts uploading videos of herself singing to YouTube—but covered with a burqa, to keep her artistic endeavors a secret from her father.

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Zaira Wasim.

“Secret Superstar” has too many cliches, with a narrative incredibly predictable. As soon as she starts recording her first YouTube performance, the plot quickly unravels in your mind, and you feel like you’re spoiling the movie to yourself. She will become viral (hence, the title of the movie), her father finds out, he will get angry, will be defeated in some way, and it’s a happily ever after for Insia and her battered mother. Plus, the boy in the opening scene will figure as a love interest.

And so now you rely on the storytelling and the details for your enjoyment. Unfortunately, “Secret Superstar” is too one-dimensional,  too melodramatic, and while the songs are okay, they do not make your heart soar. While Insia has talent, she’s not exactly superstar material.

Aamir Khan comes in the picture as a music director/producer with a garish taste in clothes. Utilized as a comic relief and as a contrived symbol of the music industry and everything wrong with it, it’s a bit of a challenge to look and listen to him.

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Aamir Khan and Zaira Wasim.

In the midst of all the saccharine, Hollywood-inspired treatment, the father’s performance is the only thing that feels real—layered and restrained. Arjun’s presence feels very threatening. When he enters, the room fills with tension.

While “Secret Superstar” touches on women’s rights, patriarchal system, domestic violence, and a sweet mother-daughter relationship, it’s too glossy, too overwrought, and too cliched to make an impact.

2 out of 5 stars

Showing in select Philippine cinemas

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