Movie Review: Chalk n Duster

January 15, 2016

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

It would require some skill and powers of persuasion to get two of India’s best actresses on board and then go on to direct them in what is a singularly mediocre and amateurish film.

Handout still from "Chalk n Duster"Set in a Mumbai school, Jayant Gilatar‘s film plays out like a tale fit for three-year-olds. There is no attempt to introduce any subtlety or sense in the plot. We get caricatures instead of characters, and actress Shabana Azmi singing a song about the virtues of algebra that ends with the kids chanting “BODMAS” several times. It would be surreal if it wasn’t so horrible.

The storyline is rather predictable – Vidya (Azmi) and Jyoti (Juhi Chawla) are Mumbai school teachers whose lives are disrupted when evil principal Kamini (Divya Dutta in ill-fitting wigs) decides to try an ‘out with the old, in with the new’ approach. Kamini announces a grand plan to bring in younger teachers to replace existing ones and give the school an “international look”.

Handout still from "Chalk n Duster"Who can argue with logic like that? Gilatar’s film is littered with such lines. There is a Rita Skeeter (the “Harry Potter” journalist) character played by Richa Chadha, who swoops down on the school to save it, while Rishi Kapoor has a cameo as a quiz master cheering on our two heroines as they battle the “bad guys” in a test of knowledge.

Chalk n Duster” might have been an attempt at shedding some light on the plight of teachers – some of the worst paid and overworked individuals in India – but it seems Gilatar didn’t pay any attention in film school.

The only lesson you learn is how the Indian film industry neglects veteran actresses such as Azmi and Chawla, and forces them to accept mediocre roles just to appear on the big screen again.

(Editing by Tony Tharakan; Follow Shilpa on Twitter @shilpajay and Tony @TonyTharakan. This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

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