Now we know why a promising film starring Shahid Kapoor, Ayesha Takia and Nana Patekar got delayed. Paathshaala goes horribly off track with not much attention being paid to the screenplay. Director Milind Ukey might have zeroed in on a good topic, but the script does not translate into a good celluloid product.
Rahul Prakash Udyawar (Shahid Kapoor) joins Saraswati Vidya Mandir, a school established in 1941, as an English teacher. But apart from English, he ends up taking music classes as well, as the school is short of a music teacher. Rahul is helped in this by the school's nutritionist-cum-admin girl, Anjali (Ayesha Takia).
The principle, Aditya Sahay, takes a liking for this young but passionate educator. Sahay has nurtured the school for 32 years, and cannot see it going down financially. So, he gives in to the management's demands of generating more revenue by commercialising the operations of the school. This is met with vehement opposition from the teachers, but they have to comply to save their jobs.
And so everything the school offers now has a price. Children have to buy sport equipment for games class, and instruments for music class. Also, canteen food is now expensive and consists of mostly junk.
Moreover, the school management has now hired PR experts to change its image. So, film and ad shoots happen on campus now, and students are used as extras. And before they know it, all kids have to now keep aside studies for 10 days and prepare for a reality show audition.
The rest of Paathshaala is about how this reality show thing tortures the students, who are after all, just kids. Being rejected in an audition scars them for life.
So, how does this all end? Well, the solution is not projected properly. What happens to the school in the end? This is not the only problem with Paathshaala.
The film offers a general glimpse of student life. It also tackles the issue of an ugly duckling of a child who is shunned by all. But all this is random and does not sync the way it should in a film. It's more like a TV show. Also, it is not clear if it's a boarding school or a day one. The portrayal is confusing.
Paathshaala disappoints in dialogues, and the corniest ones are said with such conviction, you don't know where to look. One can't blame the actors, though. They have all done a decent job in trying to save the film.
Paathshaala does not succeed in making the hero look like the revolutionary they address him as. Shahid Kapoor delivers in whatever scenes he has. His charm is intact.
Nana Patekar is of course, good, but is kinda wasted in the role. Nana might miss out on his grammar sometimes, but he emotes through eyes and body language.
Ayesha Takia is a pretty and caring teacher. That's it. Saurabh Shukla as Sharma, the school manager is loud and more irritating than required for his character. Anjan Srivastava as the peon is good. Sushmita Mukherjee and Sushant Singh as teachers play their parts well.
Verdict: After great films on education like 3 Idiots, Taare Zameen Par and the Marathi film Shikshanachya Aaicha Gho, Paathshaala seems like a big letdown. It's neither here nor there.
Rating: You could give it a miss.
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