IT is a well-meaning film on the education system and modern urban society with its skewed priorities. But it gets derailed by a script that lectures on too many issues.
The film is set in a boarding school where the staff seems congenial and the students live harmoniously, enjoying their youth. There are no bullies and bad guys here, barring the young children who ostracise a classmate because of an unbecoming facial flaw.
Principal Sahay (Nana Patekar) runs the school with a firm hand and a commitment to education. He appears to want to modernise the school until he appears to do a volte face and begins to commercialise Saraswati Vidya Mandir. This change coincides with the arrival of the new English teacher Rahul Prakash Udyawar (Shahid Kapoor) who, along with the rest of the staff, including nutritionist Anjali (Ayesha Takia), is upset by the blatant profit motive behind certain actions, like selling basketballs, snacks and musical instruments thus making every activity the privilege of a few. The heartlessness extends to grueling punishments for the children.
Matters take a turn for the worse when an image management agency is hired to give the school’s reputation a boost.
When the agency suggests entering children into a reality TV show, it becomes a comment on the media and TV besides parenting, the education system and corporatisation.
The basic thought is noble, but its execution is old-fashioned and the message delivery preachy. Stereotypes and casting of hamming actors (like Anjan Srivastava), besides introducing certain tracks which go nowhere, does not help. Ayesha Takia’s role is brief, but it’s good to see her on the big screen; Shahid Kapoor’s Udyawar takes on an activist guise, but the script omits to give the character a big bang moment. Patekar is competent as always. Director Milind Ukey’s lack of experience is apparent, but his FTII training is not. Paathshaala is sloppy, inconsistent and loses impact sermonising.