Thursday, 9 February 2012

Stanley Ka Dabba

Directed by: Amole Gupte
Starring: Partho Gupte, Divya Dutta, Amole Gupte
Released: 2011
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

There are huge, lavishly told stories that hardly touch you. And then there are little stories that go straight to your heart. Just like the rather unglamorously named Stanley Ka Dabba. You might just be surprised what all can be told and shared in a tale about somebody´s lunch tiffin. Or a lack of it, which is exactly the case of Stanley, an 8-years-old boy from Mumbai.

Stanley seems to be lucky enough. He is bright, full of original ideas (that unfortunately not always go down well with all the teachers), eager to learn. And yet he is not a typical nerd who would get rejected by the rest of his class. On the contrary – he is hugely popular among all his classmates. He also has a special place in a heart of his English teacher miss Rosy – and in return he has a huge childhood crush on her. However one of the teachers is constantly annoyed with Stanley.
Some boys have bruises from fights. Some boys are like Stanley.
„Khadoos“ as he is nicknamed, is more than for his Hindi lessons known for unashamedly eating the lunches of his students (and other teachers as well, just more respectfully). One brief sight of a nice, shiny, metal dabba (tiffin), one sniff of food, makes him loose control over his thoughts and actions. He does not care one bit for what his students must think, he devours all he can. And he is thus deeply bothered upon realizing one of the students never brings any food to school – Stanley. Nobody has ever seen Stanley´s own dabba. Instead the boy usually disappears during lunch time, saying he´s going home to eat, but instead he can be found in the bathroom, drinking water to deceive his own stomach...

It is the simplicity in which the story is told that makes the whole film so engaging. Almost a perfect picture of a childhood, but seen from point of view of someone who already has the pangs of growing up behind them. Yet it all stay innocent because innocence and mischievousness reflect in Stanley´s dark eyes. Partho Gupte is so incredibly natural in front of a camera one could easily believe he didn´t even know he was being filmed. It is rare for child actors to show so much feeling without being superficial. But Partho is not the only one to be praised in this matter, as all his friends are wonderful as well. Those little guys have talent. Moreover they beautiful „clicked“ together and their little group feels honestly genuine. It was refreshing to see a movie about friends who actually are not jealous of each other, it was nice to see children not being selfish. 
Tujhe Dekha To Yeh Jaana Sanam Pyar Hota Hai Deewana Sanam!
The picture is complete with the characters of teachers – each being distinctively different from one another in their attitude towards pupils. Sweet and loving miss Rosy is in harsh contrast to strict and cold science teacher, and then there is of course Khadoos, who is a bit of both – just completely loosing it at the mere mention of food. His scenes with Partho are truly stirring a sadness. When he bans Stanley from going to school because he doesn´t have a dabba he could loot, he is naturally highly unlikeable. But once Stanley actually shows him who is the bigger person, you don´t feel any satisfaction, instead you pity Khadoos, because apparently, he has learned his lesson, and his change of heart is very much apparent.

Stanley Ka Dabba shows you a fragment of life of a boy, whose real story is actually quite larger and much much more sad. Yet it does not sadistically linger on Stanley´s true state of living (revealed at the very end only), nor it shows him as mentally and emotionally crippled by his living conditions. It is in the end a story of someone small, bit with big dreams and a big heart.
Need to mention the opening titles are clever, amusing and sad.

1 comment:

  1. This movie was so cute, wasn't it? I hope it get's out to many kids not only in India, because it carries an important message but is entertaining for children and adults at the same time. Also: the opening titles were adorable.