Sunday, May 15

Stanley Ka Dabba is Delicious!!

Movie - Stanley Ka Dabba (Hindi)
Writer/Producer/Director - Amole Gupte
Cast - Partho, Numan, Abhishek, Amole Gupte, Divya Dutta, Divya Jagdale, Raj Zutshi
Director of Photography - Amol Gole
Music & Background Score - Hitesh Sonik
Editor/Co-Producer - Deepa Bhatia
Production Designer - Sheetal Bapardekar
Sound Designers - Dwarak Warrier & Madhu Apasara
Release Date - 13th May 2011

In between all the star studded extravagances and mindless masala movies, comes Bollywood's first true-blue independent cinema Stanley Ka Dabba spreading a beautiful aroma and so many smiles around. Amole Gupte, whose brainchild Taare Zameen Par blew our minds and hearts not so long ago, scores yet again with his directorial debut. An original, genuine, sincere, simple and beautiful film, which is all heart - that is Stanley Ka Dabba. 

Stanley (Partho) is an enthusiastic and multi-talented child studying in Std IV F of Holy Family High School along with his friends Abhishek (Abhishek), Aman Mehra (Numan) & party. While all his friends feast on their dabbas during lunch breaks, Stanley doesnt bring a dabba and usually gets his share of lunch from his cool friends, most of whom are fans of him, and his stories. Trouble comes in the form of the terrifying Khadoos Varma (Amole Gupte), their Hindi teacher, who takes pleasure on eating food from others' dabbas, be it his students or his colleagues in the staff room. Stanley Ka Dabba effectively captures the routine school life of these children and their fight against the villain in their lives - the Khadoos Hindi teacher; and gives a shocking jolt by the end, which makes us see the entire film once again in another perspective. 

Amole Gupte is a brilliant storyteller, which was evident from his first screenplay Taare Zameen Par (which he was directing, until Aamir Khan took over). Stanley Ka Dabba is similar to TZP in many ways, yet so drastically different. Both films are essentially about children, and both tackle serious issues without being preachy as well and the similarity ends there. Stanley Ka Dabba makes us revisit the times when going to school, learning things, eating lunch with friends, getting a chocolate from the teacher, playing football during breaks and such small things were the biggest pleasures in life. School was such an important part of the growing up years of every single one of us and Amole Gupte takes us back to one of the classes in primary school and makes us feel like we're one among the students there. The film, which was shot completely on a digital still camera (Canon 7D, its the first mainstream Hindi film to use this technology) over weekends and vacations without disturbing the classes of any of its child actors, has captured the children at their most candid of moments, which makes the film so strikingly real and at the same time, enjoyable. None of the performances look like a performance, and never do you get a sense that what you are watching is actually a film which was written and made by a bunch of people over a period of time. You are sucked into the world of Stanley and his friends that you forget about everything else. Very rarely can a filmmaker achieve this. 

Partho is a brilliant actor. Amole Gupte's son proves that he might be as talented as his father at this young age itself. Those who loved Darsheel Zafary's Ishaan Nandakishore Awasthi, would adore Partho's Stanley Fernandez. Stanley is the complete opposite of whatever Ishaan was and he wins our heart right from the second he does his own version of Vishal Bhardwaj's Dhan Te Nan in the beginning of the film. Partho plays the enthusiastic, wide-eyed, talented and cute Stanley so beautifully that you cant help falling in love with the child. This is the best performance you would've come across in a Hindi film in a long long time and the best part is that it doesnt even look like its a performance. Partho is Stanley for everyone watching the film. Numaan Sheikh plays the chubby little Aman Mehra, the rich, but sweet kid who brings the tallest of dabbas and loves to share it with his buddies. Abhishek Reddy reminds you of your best buddy during school who would stand by you no matter what. The rest of the children are all so good that many of our leading men should take acting lessons from them. Anyone who has had the experience of shooting with children would vouch that it is one of the toughest things to do, but Amole Gupte has extracted some wonderful performances from a whole bunch of kids, which is indeed an enormous task. 

Divya Dutta plays the super-sweet English teacher whom Stanley has a major crush on. Lovely is too small a word to desrcibe her in the movie. Every grown up would have memories of a strict, no-nonsense and sarcastic teacher like the South Indian Science teacher Mrs Iyer, played perfectly by Divya Jagdale. And then there is the director Amole Gupte himself, playing the film's antagonist Khadoos Varma, who is as villainous as any of our iconic Hindi film villains, even when he snatches food from unsuspecting kids and teachers. His Varma actually mirrors Stanley's situation, but leaning towards the negative side of it. After Kaminey, Phas Gaye Re Obama and the Malayalam film Urumi, we get to see the wonderful actor having a ball playing a great character whom we feel both hatred and sympathy towards, at the same time. And then there's Raj Zutshi in a delightful cameo giving food for thought for Gupte's character. 

The routine school lives become so lively and energetic through Deepa Bhatia (Gupte's wife)'s clever and fantastic editing. Amol Gole, the director of photography has used the wonderful Canon 7D to its maximum potential and has captured children so beautifully and realistically, without many of them even noticing that they were being shot by a camera. Mixed with some real good DI work, nowhere does the film look like its been shot on a digital format, leave alone a still camera. This experiment has the power to revolutionize independent cinema in India and encourage more and more filmmakers to start making movies with the lowest of budgets. The film was shot completely on natural and ambient light which makes it look completely real. Dwarak Warrier & Madhu Apasara have captured the sound on location since it would be an enormous task to get all those kids to dub their lines; and they have done a great job with the sound design. Music by Hitesh Sonik is wonderful and the songs seamlessly fit into the narrative, thereby enhancing it. 

The charm of Stanley Ka Dabba lies in its simplicity and the nuances which the director has used to convey emotions through his characters. The ending might give you a shock, but yes, its a true fact which makes one think, after smiling throughout the movie. As the caption says, its a small story with a big heart. And this movie doesnt have the support or backing of a superstar like Aamir Khan, so its the responsibility for lovers of good and independent cinema to see to it that the film gets the viewership, success and recognition it deserves. And please dont deprive your children from the joy of seeing this movie. Make this film your vacation treat for your kids and its a given fact they would completely adore it. Rarely does a film which is so sincere and full of heart like this gets made in Hindi Cinema. Make sure you catch it immediately. The father & son are sure to win your hearts. 

To put it in Rosy Miss' words - 'Stanley, You Rock! ;-)'

P.S. - Carry lots of food with you when you watch this movie, it would come in handy, trust me. ;)

Bottomline - A heartwarming film which would make you smile throughout, and leave you with a lump in your throat by the end. MUST WATCH!!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Brilliant take Vivek!
    here's my review:

  3. But Why didn't you notice that the director made 'Hindi' teacher an egoistic,un mannered villain and 'English' teacher a super sweet character who is a light house of positivity. The film is distributed by Fox Star Studios. These are cultural manipulations. For an average viewer who just watches the movie will hate the Hindi teacher to an extent that his subconscious mind will start hating the language itself. The man attached to the language will invoke that hatred in your mind for the language. It also shows that 'native language teacher is uncivilized and 'English' teacher is highly civilized. When it comes to behavioral pattern of a person, civilization is a culture and language is an icon for that. So it becomes a problem. The Colonialist always boosts himself as highly civilized and native as an uncultured being. Fox Star is the Indian distribution division of Twentieth century fox. They do this cultural colonialization wherever they go. But the most interesting thing is that Indian reviewers never find such hidden cultural symbolizations in film while American critics are very sympathetic towards Indian culture and speaks for it when it comes to criticizing films such as "Outsourcing"

  4. But I will never deny the fact that it is a well made film !

  5. @Nambiar, tell me one person who hated the Hindi language after seeing the movie and its so-called villain Hindi teacher? I guess you're reading too much into the movie. Fox Star came into the project much after it was made if I'm not wrong. So do u think Amole Gupte had these colonialist ideologies in his mind while making this sweet film? He's a sensitive filmmaker and I'm sure he'd never do anything to degrade our culture or language.