Stanley ka dabba: Review

Kunal Guha

Cast: Divya Dutta, Partho, Amol Gupte, Divya Jagdale

Directed by Amole Gupte

Rating: ** 1/2

Stanley Ka Dabba is a deliciously candid and naturalistic portrayal of not just children but also of school teachers. Many montages in the film sweep us through the different kinds of teachers we've all had in our school life. Some- dictators like Hitler, some- you can confide in, some- who find novel ways of making the most mundane subjects seem interesting and even those who find a new excuse to pick on that one kid in class every single day. In this case, no prize for guessing who that kid is. The film succeeds in furnishing a back-to-school experience and as much as you realise what you miss, you also realise how regimented school life made us blindly follow silly things, which at the time seemed significant.

The film is about Stanley (Partho), a minor 'bol-Bachchan' loved by his friends, who look forward to his elaborate and fantastic tales about the most inconsequential things. His cleverly-woven stories also translate into great essays that earn him much love and chocolates from English teacher Rosy Miss (Divya Dutta). But despite what the title tells you, Stanley doesn't have a 'dabba'. Luckily, he has friends who are only too willing to share theirs with him. So, life goes on smoothly, until gluttonous Hindi teacher Varma Sir (Amole Gupte) decides to shun him from class, threatening him to show up only if he manages to get a lunch box. Now, clearly there is a dark secret behind Stanley's non-existent tiffin box. But the best thing about this film is that although it sufficiently sensitizes you about the cause in question, it doesn't make a song and cry to plead it and even ends on a cheerful note.

Stanley and his childish ways are initially adorable but get a bit annoying after a while as the entire universe seems to revolve around him. He's praised by a teacher and pulled up by another. All his friends seem like mere props left about to cheer him, while he's put on a pedestal constantly. But if daddy-dearest (Amole Gupte) is writing, directing, acting, producing and has 12 other credits in the film, it's only fair, right?

Sukhwinder Singh's popular number, 'Dabba' will have feet tapping and Gupte senior's lyrics are playfully poetic. Partho is a born actor and will surely grow up to become Partho Kumar, the heart-throb of many, someday. Among performances, big cheers for science teacher, Mrs Iyer (Divya Jagdale) for immaculately delivering the top 500 expressions every teacher has in her kitty.

Just like a song in the film, 'Life Bohot Simple Hain', the film is uncomplicated enough to have much to narrate. But it surely showcases children in their naturally-animated best. They're not as overtly sardonic as TV sit-com children and not quite as dull as children in most films. But mapping children so meticulously doesn't necessarily make an interesting watch. Realistic? Yes. Cinematic? May be. Popcorn? Crunchy!

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