Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

April 16, 2010

Cutting class

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 12:18 am

April 16, 2010

Cast: Nana Patekar, Shahid Kapoor, Ayesha Takia, Saurabh Shukla, Sunil Shetty.

Director: Milind Ukey

Could it really be possible that no one who read the script of Paathshala had the good sense to recognize that it needed a lot more work before they decided to go out and shoot the damn thing? Indeed, Paathshala starring Nana Patekar and Shahid Kapoor, appears to have originated from an earnest idea, but one that’s developed into a dimwitted, harebrained film.

Intended as a comment on the commercialization of educational institutions, the film traces the efforts of a group of committed teachers to stand up against a greedy management that wants to turn their school into a profitable business venture.

Shahid Kapoor stars as a sincere English teacher who leads the students and his fellow colleagues to demand an explanation from the school’s righteous principal (played solemnly by Nana Patekar) on his uncharacteristic approval of the management’s unethical money-making ways. Saurabh Shukla appears as the school’s ruthless administrator who hikes fees randomly, stocks unhealthy processed foods in the canteen, and hires an image-building agency to raise the school’s profile by admitting students into grueling reality shows and talent contests.

The film’s naïve script includes moments of sheer melodrama and over-exaggeration in its effort to shamelessly manipulate you into caring for its characters. There’s a scene in which a television show director jumps excitedly out of his seat and instructs his cameraman to zoom in when a little girl accidentally gets chilly powder in her eyes, because that’s the kind of drama that television supposedly thrives on. In another scene, a young boy is made to stand out all day in the sweltering heat because his father hasn’t been able to pay up the suddenly increased school fees. There’s also track in which a boy with a dark birthmark on his face is isolated by his classmates until good-Samaritan Shahid teaches them the meaning of friendship using a litter of puppies to make his point.

Oddly, the film ends with no resolution in sight, which makes that long, noble speech by Nana Patekar seem quite pointless after all.

It’s clear the makers of this film had the seed of a good idea, but lacked the skills to turn it into an engaging film. I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five for director Milind Ukey’s Paathshala. It’s a frustratingly foolish film; and judging by the indifferent performances of both Nana Patekar and Shahid Kapur, it appears they were just as bored acting in this movie as you are watching it.

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