Amole Gupte was credited as the creative director of ‘Taare Zameen Par’ and he was the original director as well when Aamir Khan took the mantle of directorship onto himself and directed the emotional tale. Amole Gupte was down but not out. He came back first as an actor in Kaminay and now directs this wonderful, hearwarming tale of young 9 year old Stanely in this film ‘Stanely ka Dabba’.
The film was made leisurely on Saturdays and vacations almost as a workshop so that the children acting do not miss their school and that is what this film is about. Not missing a school at any cost. To see every child in school is a goal this country tries to achieve through various methods but millions of children in urban and rural India are still deprived of basic school education. This is the underlying message of the film but the director does not even once mention it or try to push through the message through the film except a little slide in the end which informs us of the same. This is perhaps the most subtle way a message is passed across in any Indian movie.
Stanley ka dabba is about young orphan Stanely who is the darling amongst his 4th standard friends. He doesnt have anyone to give hima tiffin box to carry to school but he hides this fact to everyone and makes up stories about his family and parents. His freinds love him and share their tiffin with him however there is Prof. Babubhai Verma played effectively by the director himself. Verma is the only other guy who doesnt get a tiffin to school and he is perpetually hungry and at times bullies young kids to eat from their tiffin box. He dislikes Stanley and almost makes the young boy quit school and thats where he realizes what he has done and repents.
It is such a simple story that it is actually difficult to imagine how one can make a film out of it. But the director succeeds here in making you engrossed for little over 90 minutes or so. Stanley ka Dabba makes you smile, makes you remember your own school days and how sharing a ‘dabba’ formed some unbreakable friendship bonds that lasted lifetime. Stanley who keeps himself full by drinking lots of water is a smart young kid who does things unconventionally and is as charming as a kid can be. The movie follows perhaps the same path as Taare Zameen Par where the protagonist is disliked by all but later discovers himself. Here a serious issue of child labor is subtly introduced in the end where Taare Zameen par was more dramatic and emotional and made you shed your tears a bit more forcefully. The school scenes are also quite similar and how a good or bad teacher can influence young kids is shown by both the films. Amole Gupte perhaps tries to prove that he could still have helmed Tare Zameen Par equally well.
One of the most important character of the film is the ‘food’ in various tiffin boxes that is brought to school by various children. The food is not just that but represents the love of the mother whoc packs it every day for his young kid. The food certainly looks yummy and I felt hungry watching the film.
The film is not flawless either and drags at times in second half and there are quite a few loose ends as well with no satisfactory conclusion to the story. But it is a sincere effort on part of Amole Gupte and kudos to Fox-Star for backing such a film. Partho Gupte as Stanely is the star of the film and his simple mannerisms and natural acting and infectious smile wins your heart. He looks quite talented as well. His friends are also wonderful and Divya Dutta as loveable Rosy Miss, Divya Jagdale as strict Science teacher and Raj Zutshi as the new history teacher are equally apt for this smallish film. Background music and OST are decent. The photography is beautiful especially when you think direcot didnt use any extra light and used only natural lighting to make the film look more natural and real. Direction is superb however the script as mentioned before has some plot-holes and could have been tighter. The film could perhaps have been much better and executed in different way. It does not have the emotional appeal of Taare Zameen Par and it doesn’t have the marketing brains of Aamir Khan behind it but it has one important thing missing in today’s films and thats subtlety.
I would recommend this film to everyone with a kid inside him.
My Ratings: 7.5/10 – Its a simple lovely film appealing to the kid within you. Watch it – Strictly For kids aged 8 to 80