Sometimes I come across movies that deserve more recognition than they actually get, and then I try to make people aware of them. One of such movies that I just watched is Gifted, coming from director Marc Webb who gave us the very iconic (500) Days of Summer, which belonged to a completely different genre altogether.
So one fine day I was watching random trailers on YouTube, and I happened to hit upon this one that caught my attention because of Chris Evans, and I admit with shame that I haven’t seen him other than as Captain America before. Now that I Google him up I know he has done tons of movies, but a majority of them are from Marvel. Anyway, to avoid digression, Gifted is the story of seven-year old Mary Adler (played by an adorable Grace McKenna), who happens to have inherited her mother’s, Diane Adler’s genes that define her as a mathematical genius. Diane took her own life at a very young age, presumably unable to cope with the pressures and expectations being forced on her, and was only few steps away from solving the Navier-Stokes problem, which could have gotten her international recognition. Even worse, she had carried the child (Mary) of a man who didn’t bother to take care of the baby after she was born. Thus Mary came to be raised up by Diane’s brother Frank Adler (played by Captain America), who tries desperately to give her the life of an ordinary kid, and sends her to an ordinary school, where much to Mary’s disappointment, the teacher asks her to solve 3+3 whereas she has already moved on from advanced algebra to differential equations.
Frank soon realises his mistake when the school gets to know about Mary’s gift, and proposes to send her to a school for the gifted children. Things get complicated even more when Mary’s grandmother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) tries to get custody of Mary and raise her up like her daughter Diane, which is of course, thoroughly opposed by Frank. Evelyn believes that Mary’s brains should be nurtured and she should have a place among the erudite mathematicians, but Frank wants his niece to lead a normal life. So who wins? That is something I will not reveal here.
What I found interesting is this dilemma that I myself faced while watching this movie. On one hand, I see this innocent but brave little girl, who says what she means, and punches a twelve-year old bully in the face – a girl who loves her one-eyed cat the most, and jumps with joy at the hospital when an unknown family celebrates the birth of a baby. But then this girl is also a genius who can solve complicated mathematical problems which students triple her age have no idea about. There is a huge conflict between these two traits that get me thinking. How can you ever treat these kids as you would treat others? Do they deserve fame and recognition, and a life beyond ordinary, or should they be made to mingle in the usual crowd? Or is a balance between the two possible? Because at some point their prowess will no longer be a matter of secrecy. At any cost, it is to be ensured that the golden period of childhood and first instances of social interaction with peers is not compromised due to their unusual assets.
While looking more into the subject, I came across this recent article on an Australian news website, which claims that there are around 5 million children in India with an IQ of 135 or above, and they are undiscovered as yet, because of the lack of exposure. India does not have reality TV shows that showcase such talents, not that I support this kind of unnecessary burden on young minds. In fact, there is a Times of India article from 2007 that speaks of our negligence in treating gifted children. I doubt much has changed in these ten years. But a part of me wants these kids to be found out and trained by the best minds in the country. Unlike many children who do not develop the knack for learning so easily (although every child is curious by default, somehow later on we take it away from them), these beautiful minds know how to teach themselves the most intricate of things – from science to language to artistic expressions. If, we as a society, are capable of acknowledging the presence of such minds and help them develop, not at the cost of their normal lifestyle in any case, but give them that extra push that they need to feel more confident about their potentials, I believe we can reach new unforeseen heights. For example, there is this school called Navodaya Vidyalaya which enrolls such children from rural areas.
There are children in the slums around you that have brains that can work wonders. There are kids on the streets begging for food, while what they should be asking for is education. I am not asking you to hunt down the prodigies and work on them, but every child deserves education. Do your bit, and take small steps towards providing them a pencil, a book, an hour from your schedule to teach them. You may not find a child genius, but you will be creating new curious minds. And if you do find one, who knows he or she might turn out to be the next Srinivasa Ramanujan, or even greater.
Watch the trailer of Gifted here: