“I Am Trying” to Perform Like an Ideal Boy

The Construction of Boyhood through Corporal Punishment and Educational Discipline in Taare Zameen Par

in Boyhood Studies

In this article I examine boyhood as presented through the figure of an eight year- old boy, Ishaan, in the Hindi film Taare Zameen Par (2007). In the current era of India’s globalization, how does the particular politics of hegemonic masculinity inform the very foundations underlying the family and school as punitive structures? By positing the analytical perspectives of childhood studies and the performativity of identity against Foucauldian inflected terminology, I argue that Ishaan enacts the dual role of both victim and agent in a film that mediates between two forms of harsh regulatory practices—corporal punishment and educational discipline. The climactic reorientation of an ideal boyhood gradually unfolds against the backdrop of the performances of other contrasting masculinities installed through the figures of the boy’s father, brother, fellow-students, and school-teachers. By drawing such interconnections, I see the film as contesting the ways in which domestic and academic institutions affect contemporary masculine subject formation.