Remember that Van Halen song, “Hot For Teacher?” Yes, I must confess, I have a serious, major, and massive crush on the teacher in LIKE STARS ON EARTH!

(a “Dear special child:” film review by Timothy J. Verret)

“Dear special child:”

There are some films that just “change the game.” They get us to look at the world in an entirely different and unique way. Such is this film from India, LIKE STARS ON EARTH. In fact, looking at the world in an entirely different and unique way is EXACTLY what this film is all about. It’s about a “Dear special child:” who was led by a wonderfully special teacher to see how truly miraculous and special he was, is, and always will be. I would have loved to have seen this special film as a “Dear special child:” myself, as it would have “changed my game” and allowed me to embrace me as special as I was, is, and always will be.

Darsheel Safary plays the special child, Ishaan Awasthi, and it’s a marvelous performance of absolute and complete originality. Any exceptionally gifted, young actor would have found it difficult to carry a nearly 3-hour film, but Safary is not just any exceptionally gifted, young actor. He is TRULY special, just as Ishaan is. With the young eyes of an old soul and those big buck teeth, Safary wins us over the minute he shows up in the film and he has our heart in every scene that follows until the triumphant end. Aamir Khan plays the wonderfully special teacher, Ram Shankar Nikumbh, and Khan, most definitely an inner child as an outer adult, wins us over, as well, with his creative and unique teaching style. The other teachers in the school don’t know what to make of Nikumbh but when they try to make him over into the stringent and regimented teacher they are, Nikumbh faces them all and gives them the Nazi salute of, “Heil Hitler!” Priceless and very apropos! It’s not the least that Ishaam is lazy and rebellious; it’s simply the most that Ishaam has undiagnosed dyslexia. Words confuse him and cause him to have poor motor skills, as well. Catching a ball is impossible for Ishaam, because he can’t understand the concept of the ball being thrown to him, unable to clock the actual distance from the ball, thus completely unable to catch the ball. Words hold this same concept of confusion for him. When Nikumbh figures out why Ishaam can’t read and write, he sets out to address his dyslexia but Nikumbh does something even more remarkable than that: Nikumbh addresses Ishaam’s creativity in painting where words cannot possibly fail him. Ishaam’s parents are clueless about his dyslexia, as many parents unfortunately are, and Ishaam’s father is hell bent on his children succeeding and winning. Ishaam succeeds and wins in ways his father cannot understand, and that is through Ishaam’s creativity.

I’m not kidding you, “Dear special child:” Every single teacher and parent with a child and/or children should be mandated to watch this film. Teachers and parents need to understand that their child does not have to succeed or win because a certain teacher and parent didn’t succeed or win in their own lives. Teachers and parents need to address each special child individually, uniquely, refreshingly accommodating to each special child’s unique gifts and talents. The child might become the quarterback of a football team but the child also might become the painter who paints like no one else can possibly paint. The child might be the smartest kid in the class but the child also might be the most artistic kid in the class. This film inspires me to want to teach because I want kids to “get this.” I want kids to “get” that they don’t have to be who their teacher or parent thinks they need to be. They need ONLY be who they NEED to be. My parents wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer for the rich career warranted. I wanted to be the artist I am now for the “rich career” of being enriched as the creative person God enriched me to be, monetarily rich or poor. It’s these creative types like Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, all with learning disabilities, who “changed the game” and thus changed the world. It’s these creative types who do God, The Original Creator, justice by creating from adversity to sheer originality.

I’m not going to let you, “Dear special child:,” get away without saying this:

“Dear special child:” YOU ARE SPECIAL! You always were, are, and always will be. There is not one single thing you need to “change about your game.” If your teachers want you to be who they want you to be, be YOU! If your parents want you to be who they want you to be, be YOU! There is no one else like you and there is no one else who will ever be like you. You are one-of-a-kind, unique, special, endearing, remarkable, marvelous….do you need me to go on? If you do, I will! I’m so grateful to God that He brought this absolute gem of a film to me at just the absolute right time, because I can often feel VERY “unspecial.” This film reminds me and all of us just how special we were, are, and always will be. “Like stars on earth” indeed am I….and YOU!!!!

Unique and original blessings ALWAYS, “Dear special child:,”

Timothy J. Verret (a “Dear special child:”)


  1. Thank you for writing such a beautifully nuanced review on TAARE ZAMEEN PAR (LIKE STARS ON EARTH); it truly communicates the purity and innocence of childhood and thank you so much for appreciating the iconic work by Darsheel Safary and the inimitable Aamir Khan..

    I recommend you watch Aamir’s exceptional work in COLOUR ME SAFFRON, FANAA, LAGAAN, MUMBAI DIARIES(DHOBI GHAT), TALAASH, HOLI , DIL CHAHTA HAI to know why he’s simply one of the best.


  2. Thank you, PC, for your kind words. I do look forward to seeing more of Aamir’s work. I’m not sure I could get enough of him at this point 😉
    Timothy (“Mr. T”)


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