Monday, January 18, 2016

Movie Review: Chalk N' Duster

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The Story Frame:

Jayant Gilatar's Chalk N' Duster highlights the commercialization of our educational institutes and its consequences. It focuses on teacher-student relationship and the role of management in running one of the most holy and noble institutes. It portrays the importance of teachers in everybody's life and reminds one to give back them the honor and respect they deserve.

Cast: Shabana Azmi (Vidya), Juhi Chawla (Jyoti), Zarina Wahab (Indu Ji), Divya Dutta (Kamini Gupta), Upasna Singh (teacher), Girish Karnad (Husband of Vidhya), Sameer Soni (Husband of Jyoti), Aarya Babbar (Anmol), Adi Irani, Rishi Kapoor (Quiz Master), Jackie Shroff (Head of a rival school), Richa Chadda (TV Journalist), Kabir Arora, Akshita Arora, Gavie Chahal, Naveen Sharma

Genre: Drama

Direction: Jayant Gilatar

Produced by: Amin Surani

Production Company: Surani Pictures

Distributor: Sony Pictures Entertainment

Written by: Ranjeev Verma, Neetu Verma

Cinematographer: Baba Azmi

Music: Sandesh Shandilya

Theatre Release: 15th January, 2016

Language: Hindi

Duration: 131 minutes 
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Reviewer's Thumb Mark

Chalk N' Duster relies on the age-old adage : "Acharya Devo Bhavah" (Teachers are Akin to God). It is a movie with a great theme and with a bunch of fantastic actors but ends up treating the theme very superficially without going into the depth of a very serious concern of our current educational system i.e. "The commercialization of the most holy and noble institution - The School. The poor execution dampens the spirit of the audience who are there to watch and laud some power-packed performances and thought-provoking dialogues from some versatile actors like Girish Karnad, Shabana Azmi, Zarina Wahab, Juhi Chawla.

Having said this, the movie is still a onetime watch because of the ensemble of talented actors present in it. Kantaben High School is run by a board of trustees and Indu Ji (Zarina Wahab) is the Principal. She is a value driven, ethical and a fair administrator and a role model. She is regarded highly for her credibility and authenticity. But then there is always a black sheep in the community and here it is Kamini Gupta (Divya Dutta), the deputy to the Principal. Kamini Gupta is the bridge between the teachers and the top management and therefore she rules the roost with an iron hand. The Principals message and directions are manipulated to meet Kamini's interest and convenience. She expects the teachers to behave like bonded labours.
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Kamini Gupat is ambitious and flamboyant. Her ambitious wings get her the sky when she happens to meet the new chief of the board of trustees Mr Anmol (Arya Babbar) who is a foreign return MBA Graduate who is equally ambitious. Her growing proximity with him bags her the most cherished chair of the principal and Indu Ji's head rolls as an aftermath of the board's decision.

It takes no time for Kamini Gupta to turn the school into a garrison. All the perks, subsidies, fee concession, complementary tea are snatched away. Last moment meetings, juggling of subject teachers, harrasment, victimization becomes the order of the day.

A string of unpleasant incidents and encounters between the staff and the stooges of Kamini Gupta and herself leads to the illegal termination of one of the most senior and reputed Mathematics teacher Vidya (Shabana Azmi) from the school.  She is known for her unconventional and creative ways of teaching Mathematics. What happens to Vidhya and how and why she lands up in the ICU of a hospital need to be watched on screen.

Jyoti, another science teacher played by Juhi Chawla decides to enter into the ring of combat with the management. Her rebellious fervour gets a new ammo when a television journalist Bhairravi Takkar (Richa Chadda) contacts her to get a news bite on the issue of Vidhya's termination and the ongoing tussle between the teaching fraternity and the School Management.

The exclusive interview of Jyothi on a national channel leads to a mass movement. Did Jyoti succumb to the pressures of the management? Does Jyoti's initiative and open rebellion help regain the honor and respect of the teaching fraternity? These are some questions I would like to leave for you to figure out by yourself in a nearby theatre.

Girish Karnad have no role apart from playing a wheelchair-bound husband of Shabana Azmi. Rishi Kapoor as the quiz master is good but then the climax scene is too superfluous and far from reality.

In short, Jayant Gilatar's intention as a Director is good and well founded but somewhere he stumbles and falter in its execution and under utilizes powerful and talented actors.

Chalk N' Duster is in no way a Munna Bhai MBBS or a Taare Zammeen Par, which were superb and well crafted movies that dealt the issue of commercialization of our educational system with great finesse. Nevertheless, Chalk N' Duster brings back our fond memories of teacher-student relationship and is successful to some extent to evoke the right kind of feelings of "Acharya Devo Bhavah". So go to a nearby theatre read what's written on the white board and do not forget to use the duster as it is a one time watch.

Life Connoisseur Movie Rating: 2.5/5