Stanley ka Dabba – Appreciation

To give realistic cinema, we have always thought of showing fights and abuses, especially now where censors are just for the sake of it. Here is a realistic cinema based on a fictional story that doesn’t need to do all that. And it touches you more than anything. The so-called mature cinema will make your hearts burn but will make you feel you can’t change much. This one, on paper looks pretty childish but is more mature and touches the finer aspects of life which only children can teach us. And it touches our hearts, it gives us some hope, some inspiration. There can’t be any critical review for such a film, there can only be an appreciation and hence the title.

Let’s start with the theme first. It’s based on a boy who doesn’t carry his tiffin box to school. He is a brilliant boy otherwise, a story-teller in his own right. He binds everybody to his stories. While most teachers don’t like him, he’s a favourite of Rosie Miss, his English teacher who praises his creativity. And he’s loathed most by his Hindi teacher, popularly called ‘khadus’. Khadus treats him as a competition because like the boy, Stanley, khadus also doesn’t bring tiffin and devours on the dabba of fellow-teachers and students.

A certain student, Aman Mehra brings the biggest dabba to school, especially following the three extra classes to cover syllabus, and hence an extra lunch break added. The dabba gang then fights out to make khadus stay away from their dabba. All along, Stanley is seen telling tales of his mother, and sometimes father. The scenes where he is shown drinking lots of water because he doesn’t carry a dabba are heartening. Also, his conviction when in one scene he’s staring at the dabba gang when hungry and in the other, he’s saying he’s going home to have hot fresh cooked food.

In the end, when khadus catches them, he singles out Stanley and tells him not to come to school without a dabba. When he’s not there, a competition is organized among various schools, and dabba gang thinking he’s the best candidate finds him and handles him the poster.

Direction is brilliant. Amole Gupte has a talent with children. Bringing out the best of them is a tough task, while staying true to the story. Many would’ve thought the khadus-Stanley episode was far-stretched. But what I think the director wanted was to show the madness of the khadus for food, and thereby bringing out the pain of Stanley and by the climax, the audience is completely with Stanley when the mystery unfolds. And the effect is a lot more simply because stretching the tug-of-war a bit too much.

Cinematography stands out. Also interesting is that it was shot on a DSLR Canon 7D so that children aren’t scared seeing big cameras. And no special lights used, only natural lights. It goes to show the talent of Amol Gole. As of now, no mainscreen cinema has been shot in a DSLR so it’s a step forward too, with the budgets too coming down considerably.

A credit to the team, the movie has been shot on Saturdays and Sundays, without disrupting the school activities or the student’s curriculum. Surely, it’s a children’s movie.

Music in Bollywood is just supposed to add masala and glorify heroes where they become singers with the most beautiful voices and the best singing styles, singing without mikes and music coming out of heavens. In this movie, both the background score and the music has been brilliant. Music, specially the songs, carry the movie forward. There may not be a single chart-buster in the movie (though some are lot better than the current chart-busters), but surely there is no out-of-place song either. Hitesh Sonik has given some soulful music for the words of Amole Gupte himself. The singers are first rate, with surprise being Vishal Dadlani of Vishal Shekhar singing even in a more subdued tone. Tere andar bhi chhupa hai kya koi Stanley, life bahut hi simple hai and nanhi si jaan stand out.

Editing by Deepa Bhatia is first rate, and as per the director’s requirement.

Special mention to the 2-D chalk-board animation in the beginning. It sets the mood brilliantly, and in a very simple way.

Coming to performances: Partho as Stanley, Amole Gupte as khadoos, and the dabba gang are brilliant. The support cast of the teachers and others is first-rate. But the main actors were dabba gang (including Stanley) and Amole Gupte who do their job with innocence, honest and convition. By the end of the film, you might actually start hating Amole Gupte, such is his performance. Especially the scene where he is seen reacting to smell of vada paav. The mouth-watering expressions he gives, unmatched. 
Who Should Watch It? People who love children, who miss their school, who crave for innocence in day-to-day life, who believe life is simple. Also, the movie lovers, who love the performances, direction, cinematography and more such finer aspects of the movies.

All-in-all, it is one of the classics for me, a must-watch surely, 10 on 10 for me.

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