Final word? PAATHSHAALA, made with noble intentions, couldve been a splendid wake up call, but it runs out of steam midway!
The story begins with a new English teacher, Rahul Prakash Udyavar [Shahid Kapoor], joining Saraswati Vidya Mandir School. Though he strikes an instant rapport with students and teachers alike, he realizes that there is something amiss in the school.
Slowly, his doubts prove true as School Manager Sharma [Saurabh Shukla] makes many monetary obligations compulsory on the parents in the name of extra-curricular activities. He goes to the extent of punishing the students inhumanly when the new, unjustified demands of the school are not fulfilled by the parents.
When Rahul unifies the teachers [Ayesha Takia, Sushant Singh] against the atrocities of school management, Principal Aditya Sahay [Nana Patekar] defends the management decision. This comes as a shocker to the teachers as Sahay is known for his dedication as an educationist for last 32 years, which has built the schools high reputation.
The situation turns grave as the school management becomes over-ambitious with its growth and involves media planners in the extra-curricular activities. This demands the involvement of students in TV reality shows and many other media activities used for building up the school image in public, which starts reflecting on the students stress levels. The pressure on young minds increases incredibly, leading to unexpected consequences.
One of my childhood memories is of a few students being called to the principals office and being reprimanded for not paying their school fees on time. In another instance, I vividly recall a student being made to stand in scorching heat, under the blazing sun, since he was up to some mischief all the while. The barbaric attitude was a way of teaching the student a lesson.
PAATHSHAALA brings back those dark memories because the film encapsulates these two incidents on celluloid. The problem with the film is, it gets very real at times, but gets farcical as well. The participation of kids in media activities doesn have a hammer-strong impact. The chilly portion and the director capturing it on camera, or the press photographer munching samosa as the kids get ready with a pyramid, looks unreal, despite being identifiable incidents. Even the climax is confusing. What is Nana saying in the concluding reels lacks precision.
Director Milind Ukey has filmed some scenes expertly, but, as mentioned above, the film lacks the power to make you do a serious introspection. Hanif Shaikhs music is strictly okay.
Nana is very much in sync with his character. Shahid displays the vulnerability and helplessness remarkably. Ayesha is a complete natural, as always. Amongst the plethora of teachers and students, Sushant Singh does well, Sushmita Mukherjee is serviceable and Saurabh Shukla is so effective, you start hating him for his repulsive attitude.
On the whole, PAATHSHAALA is a well-intentioned film, but lacks clarity thanks to an uninspiring screenplay.