Director: Amole Gupte
Cast: Partho,Amole Gupte; Divya Dutta,Divya Jagdale,Rahul Singh,Raj Zutshi
A dabba,in the life of a schoolchild,is a magical thing. It beats hunger with packed mother love. ‘Stanley Ka Dabba gives us a child rarely seen in Bollywood : Stanley is a young boy who is so life-like that he makes you forget,almost,the fake moppets who recite their lines in sing-song,and behave like no kids you and I know.
The delightful flavour that comes off children who are children,not mannequins,is the real triumph of Stanley Ka Dabba. Stanley ( Partho) comes to school without a tiffin box. His classmates ( and his teachers) take out theirs during recess,and merry gorging commences. Except when the horrible Hindi sir Babubhai Verma ( Gupte) comes after the boys,sniffing at the goodies,and scarfing the lot. When he discovers that he is being deprived of the dabbas,he becomes an ogre : Gupte makes him menacing and pathetic at the same time,and completely believable.
There is an underlying grimness to the film which gives it gravitas. There is a reason why Stanleys dabba status is the way it is,and it is not a pretty one. Gupte makes a skilled,sure-footed debut,not pulling any punches when he confronts us with this reality,and makes you think. Another huge plus : ‘Stanley Ka Dabba doesnt patronize its viewers,whether they are kids or adults,and like all good films,it caters to both– the talking is straight-up,and completely authentic.
There are some woolly bits in the second half. A few strokes,especially when it comes to establishing quirky teachers,seem too broad. And some things,which we are asked to take for granted,seem implausible. Its a trifle difficult to believe that an empathetic teacher like the one played by Dutta,one who ruffles Stanleys hair and gives him chocolate,could takes so long to twig on to his bruised soul. The school that Stanley attends,and its principal ( Singh),looks like it would pay attention to these details,so why this blindness?
But these are tiny quibbles. The big picture is lovely. ‘Stanley Ka Dabba is a heart-warmer that wraps itself securely around you,making you wholly unwilling to let it go. And Partho,director Amol Guptes son,who plays Stanley,lights up the film. As do his companions.