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Paathshaala
Producer by: Ahmed Khan, Shaira Khan
Starring: Shahid Kapoor, Nana Patekar, Ayesha Takia Azmi, Swini Khara, Dwij Yadav, Master Ali Haji, Avika Gor
Music Dir: Hanif Sheikh

Shahid Kapur proves that he isn't just a chocolate boy; he is the one who can struggle to any extent for a cause dear to all. In today's world of globalization and commercialization, the young actor plays the role of a good teacher who fights for the good of the children as well as their parents. This is indeed a great social cause. Incidentally, only the other day, Shahid visited his old school in south Delhi and reminisced his childhood. He mixed up with the students there and felt very proud of the institution though he studied there up to class IV only. He turned nostalgic and told them how his grandfather used to drop him there everyday. Though he visited the school to promote his movie based on the subject, he looked very different from other stars doing the same.

The movie is titled 'Paathshala', the house of learning. This reminds us of the golden old days when 'Paathshala' did exist but for learning the age-old indigenous system! Here, the actor identifies it with a modern school though it's again called Saraswati Vidya Mandir (Temple of learning). He plays a new English teacher Rahul Prakash Udyavar in a school situated on the outskirts of a Mumbai suburb. As expected from an old time teacher, he relishes teaching and soon develops rapport with students as well as teachers. However, today's educational institutes are commercial and engaged in making money.

The School Manager called Sharma played by Saurabh Shukla demands hefty charges from the parents for extracurricular activities. When Rahul unifies the teachers played by Ayesha Takia, Sushant Singh and Kurush Deboo against the atrocities of school management, Principal Aditya Sahay played by none other than Nana Patekar defends the school management's decision. What an irony? This shakes the teachers, especially Mr Sahay who has served the school for 32 long years and took it to its present place of pride. Finding no alternative, the students are involved in a kind of monetarily beneficial activities like participating in reality shows and grabbing space in the print and television media.

This indeed results in great stress on the students and undermines their studies. We wonder if it doesn't reflect today's scenario where the parents are on constant warpath with the private school managements in regard to increasing tuition fees. Not only the great Guru-Shishya tradition of old age Pathshalas is missing but the very ethics of the teaching profession is completely absent today. Even the government has turned a mute spectator.

The movie is very topical in the present context when the government of India has recently committed itself to the right of education for its people. Hopefully, the so called modern system of imparting education will yield place to a new one where primary education will be compulsory and the birth right of every child in the country. Shahid shoulders the movie though the other cast lends full support through their respective roles, especially Ayesha Takia and Nana Patekar. While Ayesha looks natural throughout, Nana gels well with the principal's character.

Ahmed Khan has beautifully penned it and Milind Ukey successfully directed it, besides filming several scenes excellently. Sushant Singh fares well and so are Sushmita Mukherjee and Saurabh Shukla. Shukla plays a kind of villain but acts very well. Hanif Shaikh's music is nice. In spite of all this there is a flaw too; it wavers at times though it excels on other occasions. While the first half is well done the latter half lacks cohesion. The climax disappoints as is evident from Nana Patekar's confusing remarks. Still, worth watching.


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