Paathshala climaxes with a school principal, Aditya Sahai played by Nana Patekar, delivering an impassioned speech on the state of education and how rampant commercialisation is destroying it.
Sahai, explaining why he tried to raise money by allowing reality TV shows to be shot in the school, says: “There was no any other alternative. When a movie about the education system features a school principal who can’t speak basic English, you know you are in deep, deep trouble.
Paathshala is staggeringly inept. The script by Hanif Sheikh has no discernable arc.
Random scenes follow each other – most of the first half is spent in establishing the various teachers and students at the school.
So, there’s Rahul, played by Shahid Kapur, the idealistic English teacher and Anjali, played by Ayesha Takia, the school nutritionist, who also doubles up as matron and counsellor.
The students include the older set who are mostly conducting romances and the younger ones, who seem sweet but are really nasty to a kid who has a black birthmark on his face.
The school trustees tell Sahai that if he can’t upgrade the school, it will be shut down. So, the principal lets in some monstrous reality television people who set a new benchmark for cruelty to children.
In one scene, when red chilly powder flies into a girl’s eyes, the director instructs his cameraman to shoot closer because her wailing will make for higher TRPs.
At the end, post-speech, the school still has no funds and shutting shop seems eminent but Sahai, his teachers and his students are all smiling.
I think no one noticed that actually nothing was accomplished.
Director Milind Ukey splashes his titles across newspaper stories of the problems that beset education in India – stress, suicide, the demand for donations. These are all relevant and urgent issues but Ukey’s treatment is singularly hare-brained and juvenile.
So, talented actors like Saurabh Shukla, who plays the school’s greedy and brutal administrator, are forced to say lines like: main manta hoon best players hain lekin best payers toh nahin hain.
Nana grimaces, Ayesha smiles and Shahid phones-in his performance.
The trouble is that film doesn’t stray into unintentional comedy territory either. It’s just unremittingly dull.
I recommend that you steer clear. I’m sure, unlike the principal, you can find other alternatives.(NDTV)