Ready for a serious message about various ills of modern education system to be shoved down your throat?
Director Milind Ukey’s film Paathshaala is anything but an exercise in subtlety and restraint. The movie, clearly inspired from Taare Zameen Par, tries to go many steps further by addressing almost every reported anomaly in the education system - hefty donations, higher teaching fee, insensitivity of teachers, psychological burden on kids, exploitation by reality TV shows and even the poor quality of canteen food. Everything has been churned, scrambled and cocktailed in the name of an all-round feature commentary about today’s paathshaala.
Contrastingly, all this has been served in a rather arty manner, under the covert pretention of a slow, laidback, realistic arthouse film with an enlightening message whipped out in the end. You keep waiting for it and all you get in the climax is a long lecture by Nana Patekar about compromises he had to make for the betterment of the school. And, of course, Shahid Kapoor, whose guest appearance was stretched to a full-fledged role, too gets to add a few noble words in the edgeways. You see, a film like Paathshaala believes that the message doesn’t hit home until it comes from the hero’s mouth.
So you have Shahid playing Rahul Prakash Udayvar, an idealist who joins the Saraswati Vidya Mandir School as an English teacher. He notices that things are not as they ought to be. The school management is hard-pressed for funds and tells its principal Aditya Sahai (Nana) to jack things up, improve the image of the school, do necessary marketing and even exploitation if need be, to ensure more moolah in the coffers. So Sahai lets in a team of crude and ill-mannered reality TV crew for a show that will bring the school repute and money. But in the bargain the young school kids are made to endure enormous pressure and physical toil.
Rahul decides enough is enough and leads the charge against the school policies. Other teachers, including a pretty nutritionist-cum-matron (Ayesha Takia) rally around him.
The problem with Paathshaala is that it tries to have a say about too many things in too little time. As a result, nothing leaves a lasting impression and the movie ends up a mere collage of obvious clichés on education system.
Shahid Kapoor puts in a sincere performance, but it’s Nana who emerges as the scene stealer in the end. Though his dialogues border on the banal, Nana delivers them with passion and conviction. A few moments of muted romance between Shahid and Ayesha do add some flavour, though music by Hanif Shaikh is strictly passable.
My advice is you bunk this Paathshaala unless you happen to be in the mood for some boring education.