Rajeev Masand

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Lunch special

 
 

Stanley Ka Dabba

Rating: 4

May 13, 2011

Cast: Partho, Divya Dutta, Amole Gupte, Divya Jagdale, Raj Zutshi, Aditya Lakhia

Director: Amole Gupte

Few films have the heartwarming impact of Stanley Ka Dabba, which takes you right back to the wonder years of your school life. Those hushed whispers in the back benches, sharing sandwiches out of each other’s tiffin boxes, ganging up against a cruel teacher…it all comes back to you in a flash, as you sit there watching this film unfold on screen.

Director Amole Gupte (writer of Taare Zameen Par) leads you once again into the classroom. But while you knew from the outset exactly what point Taare Zameen Par was making, the lesson in Stanley Ka Dabba is woven in seamlessly. So engrossed are you in the story of how Stanley must tackle his dabba problem that the climax creeps upon you and catches you unaware.

Stanley (played by Partho) is the most popular boy in Class 4. His friends want him around all the time, whether it is to play football after school, to bellow out the Kaminey song, Dhan tan tan at the top of his lungs, or to listen to those wild stories that he spins without a blink of an eye. We learn early on that Stanley does not bring his own tiffin lunch. The director doesn’t spoon-feed us with the reason, only giving us a shadow of pathos in the scene where we see the boy secretly quenching hunger pangs by drinking straight out of a tap in the school toilet.

Amole Gupte himself steps in as Stanley’s bête noir, playing the character of Hindi teacher ‘Verma Sir’, who picks on Stanley for sharing his friends’ dabbas at lunchtime everyday. Ironically, Verma himself is obsessed with food, and so overpowering is his gluttony to dig into their tiffin boxes that he scurries off in search of the students each time the lunch bell goes off. When he discovers they’ve been hiding from him, he vents his anger at Stanley who unlike him, is always welcome to their food. The spirited boy does retrieve his dignity by the time the film reaches its bittersweet finale, and you’re left with a lump in your throat. There’s a touching message in Stanley Ka Dabba, but Gupte tells it with the love of a true storyteller, never bludgeoning the audience on the head with it.

There are moments when his screenplay lags — like that extended interschool concert scene — but it’s saved by strong performances. Stanley is played astoundingly well by Partho, as an endearing, bright boy who creates a wonderfully imaginative lighthouse as a science project, only to be chided by his disapproving teacher for not sticking to his notebook. Partho makes you believe that Stanley is both resilient and vulnerable; you’re spontaneously drawn to his side. Divya Dutta is the teacher we all know, the one who believed in your talent and who egged you on gently despite everything. As ‘Rosy Miss’, she lightens up Stanley’s life and the screen each time she walks into class. Gupte too is brilliant as ‘Khadoos‘, the teacher who lashes out at his students to feed his own ego and avarice.

But one of the most vivid characters in Stanley Ka Dabba is the food itself. I was reminded of Ang Lee’s early Taiwanese film Eat Drink Man Woman, where food forges relationships. Here too, we see it in the love with which each mother prepares her child’s lunchbox, or how it binds together Stanley and his friends.

I’m going with four out of five for director Amole Gupte’s Stanley Ka Dabba. This is a film with the perfect ingredients; made with honesty and a touch of innocence. No wonder it leaves you feeling very rewarded.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

14 Responses to “Lunch special”

  1. imran says:

    At last…Its been ages since the last 4star movie..Was anticipating.Aamir might have screwed over amol in TZP but i hope amol has the last laugh.He is the sole reason im clinging onto the bleak future of Indian cinema.

  2. Gyandeep says:

    Definitely going to catch it this weekend. No two questions about that!

  3. arjun bachani says:

    AMOL GUPTE….WHOSE CREDIT FOR ‘TAARE ZAMEEN KE’ WAS TAKEN AWAY BY AAMIR KHAN……..
    SURELY NEEDED A COMEBACK….TO SHOW HIS REAL TALENT AND BRILLIANCE…….WHICH HE HAS DONE
    THROUGH ‘STANLEY KA DABBA ‘…….BEST WISHES TO HIM…….ARJUN BACHANI (an ex BANDRA GUY…)

  4. zakir says:

    yet to watch a movie, Am sure amol has done a fab job coz he’s a very innovative director and all his rewards were taken by amir khan couple of years ago, With the reviews am definately gonna watch!!!!!!

  5. saikat says:

    frankly a disappointing movie!!. the premise was good but direction left a lot to be desrired. i am no august film critic but i felt amol gupte couldnt weave the story. i was in a theatre full of kids and he lost them in the first twenty minutes.

    maybe now i know why aamir took over directing TZP.

  6. well done rajeev

  7. Made with a shoestring budget and shot on a still DSLR camera Canon 7D the film did not rely on any artificial lights or props..Stanley Ka Dabba is a simple film for the universal audience and will be enjoyed by anyone from age 6 to 160 who has been to school in some part of their lives claims Gupte.

  8. Yes, It took me back to those days of bittersweet memories of school. N having shared something in common with Stanley, it made my heart ache for the little boy. But instead of sympathy or pity, it made me feel proud of him for upholding his self respect even at this young age. With a non-end to “Verma the Khadus” I wonder if Gupte will come out with Stanley ka Dabba 2…

  9. Balaji Ranganathan says:

    Stanley wakes the kid in you and starts playing with him as you hold back your emotions. It is sensitive, sentimental and super slow. It brought back memories of carefree primary school days. It is a must watch for the 10 year olds like me !

  10. ………..EVERY CHILD IS INDEED SPECIAL..Is Amole Gupte taking a potshot at Aamir Khan when he writes a song like His official directorial debut Stanley Ka Dabba suggests hes doing just that but in the best possible way by making a better film than the one Aamir allegedly snatched from him at the 11th hour. ..Partho Numaan the simple unassuming star of Stanley ka Dabba……….. ………….With Stanley Ka Dabba Gupte has not just vindicated himself as writer director and actor but also clearly demonstrated that the magical performances of Darsheel Safary and all the other kids which were at the heart of TZP must have been extracted by a man who cares deeply about children knows how to communicate with them and express his ideas through them.

  11. aritra says:

    Its one of the best movies I have seen in years and even better than TZP in some parts…

  12. AKHIL says:

    Superb film……must watch… The best film of 2011. Should get national award.

  13. Surya says:

    Watched SKD solely basis your review. Completely agree in that it is honest and heart-warming. Touches upon a very mainstream social evil that has a good part of the country in it’s treacherous grasp. Considering that it was made on a shoe-string budget and supposedly without disrupting the schooling of any of the actors I was more than willing to overlook the fact screenplay doesn’t keep you glued throughout and the movie feels a bit of a drag at times. Except for the performances of Partho, Amole Gupte and Divya Dutta the other actors’ performances seemed lackluster. But I must say that the movie has heart. Gupte managed well to stitch the movie together whilst upholding the ethics he wanted but there was surely scope for tweaks here and there.

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