India Masala

Bollywood and culture in an emerging India

Stanley Ka Dabba: Not just for school kids

May 12, 2011

It’s easy to compare “Stanley Ka Dabba” to “Taare Zameen Par”. Both were written by the same man, both have children as their theme and have a school as the background. But the two movies aren’t similar, at least not in my mind.

While “Taare Zameen Par” was about the evils of the education system and messages galore for parents, teachers and everyone involved, “Stanley Ka Dabba” for the most part doesn’t hammer its message home. So that when the message does hit home, it hits pretty hard.

There are no tricks here, no fancy camera tricks or anything of the sort — it’s storytelling at its most basic and director Amole Gupte, who also plays a pivotal character in the film, clearly had fun while making this film and it shows.

Partho Gupte plays Stanley Fernandes, an impish kid whose charm and affable nature make him a popular boy. The only time the smile leaves his face is during school recess, when everybody around him fishes out little containers carrying their “tiffin”, while he looks around wistfully.

We realise Stanley never brings a dabba to school, often just drinking water and surviving the school day, but he never lets on. When friends share their lunch with him, he hesitates at first, then reluctantly digs in.

All that changes with the arrival of the Hindi teacher Verma, or “khadoos” as the kids call him. Verma himself eyes the children’s lunch boxes with greed and loses no opportunity to grab more than a bite out of them but castigates Stanley for doing the same.

The film focuses on the day-to-day life of an average school child, but there are several nice touches — like Mrs Iyer, the science teacher who only goes by the book or the mundane teaching methods that most teachers, burdened by a heavy curriculum, use to teach already bored kids.

Even the end, which could have been sad, instead leaves you feeling positive.

The ensemble cast is lovely, but Partho and Amole Gupte are exceptional, bringing so much life to their characters that it is difficult not to be involved with them. This is one film that has no airs about itself. Watch it, it’s worth it.

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