By Pooja Baburaj:
My school, like most schools, has its fair share of enduring and illustrious traditions. One such tradition is composed of a fÃªte celebrating the art of movie-making, our most popular fund-raiser event – “Cinema for a Cause”. This year was no different and the tradition took form during the mid-summer term. I dropped my change into the donation box and pierced into the crowded aisles of the school auditorium where the movie was scheduled to play. The initial moments spent at the hall were worn out over petty fights regarding the accelerated rate of depletion of the cheese popcorns and constant wiles of an unknown intruder who incessantly attempted to steal the groups’ coke supply. As the commencing credits began to roll, my eyes rolled in sync to the visual display — not again, not another ‘Taare Zameen Par‘.
Not that I disapprove of films that had child protagonists who were incidentally specimens of magical transformations from zeroes to heroes. It’s just a case of a classic plot being exhausted through repetitive exploitation – something that we get to see a lot in the cinemas today. When the movie was about to conclude, I rolled the pair again. But this time they were brimmed with tears. It was evident that I was immensely touched by the elegant simplicity, the subtle drama and its latent message. The movie was ‘Stanley Ka Dabba‘. Amole Gupte is thus indeed a wizard gifted with the invincible aptitude to formulate spell-binding magic with kids, for kids. After serving as the writer and creative director of ‘Taare Zameen Par’, he brings out ‘Stanley Ka Dabba’ after three years which is yet another powerful and heartwarming film about children just being children, with all their hushed secrets, loud celebrations and exciting stories. It also features adults just being adults, live in action and all iridescent with their ubiquitous idiosyncrasies, characteristic quirks and mid-life anguish.
The splendour of ‘Stanley Ka Dabba’ is indubitably its pragmatic depiction of life. Now that is refreshing, especially in a year of movies where we had a superhero, a rockstar and several others that are just renamed, re-enacted Hollywood flicks . The film is a story of life at school where kids just want to have some fun and teachers live up to their reputations as the proverbial killjoys. Of course, there are exceptions, like that favorite English teacher of ours who generously intersperses their tÃªte-Ã -tÃªte with terms of endearments and encourages every glimpse of creativity in the kids — in the movie, our favorite teacher goes by the name of Miss Rosie (Divya Dutta). The bugbear award, without any other apparent contender, goes to Sir Babubhai Verma (Amole Gupte) who is more talented in pilfering the kids tiffins rather than teaching Hindi. Stanley becomes his natural pet peeve because he never seems to bring his “Dabba” to school and ends up having a daily feast with his loving friends. As the plot unfolds, it is observed how the absence of Stanley’s “dabba” was in fact a metaphor for his mysterious life.
A further eye-catcher was the sterling performances put up by the whole of the cast. Almost all have created picture-perfect portraits of the various types of people we all have grown up with. But in the end, it is the kids that bring in the laurels, especially young Partho whose Stanley remains with you, long after curtain call. This is movie is certainly a chicken soup for the heart, both for the young and the adult heart.