It’s good to see sensitively made movies that aren’t a sob-fest come out of Bollywood. After Udaan and perhaps Taare Zameen Par (a bit of a sob-fest), Stanley ka Dabba is one that was a very good watch. Not because it dealt with the issues of child labour, but purely because of the positive attitude of Stanly (Partho).
A very well chosen ensemble cast also ensures that when Stanley is or isn’t on screen, the movie doesn’t drag or lag. Divya Dutta as the loving teacher is indeed lovable except for the occassional hamming bit. Mrs Iyer (the Science teacher) is someone all of us have had at some point during school. And much as we always hated Mrs Iyer, she did have our interests at heart.
Khadoos or Mr Verma, the Hindi teacher, played by Amole Gupte is truly a unique character. You hate him when he scolds Stanley. At the same time, he endears himself when you when he chases the kids during lunch. But in the end, you just feel sorry for him. There’s a good reason he must be chasing the food. But that’s never brought to the fore. And finally when his guilt makes him overwrought with grief, it is a touching letter he leaves behind for Stanley.
The movie’s premise is quite simple. Stanley wants to protect his background. No one at school except perhaps the principal is aware of his situation. And this isn’t made entirely apparent throughout the movie; it’s just a hint. Despite his situation, Stanley is always upbeat, always happy and intent on making everyone laugh. Not since perhaps Bawarchi has laugher been converted to tears so easily.
There was always the possibility of this being a serious film, but being handledd the way it has been, it is a pleasure to watch. It’s also hard to write a review without giving too much of the plot or spoiling it. So I’ll stop right here with a strong recommendation to watch it. Whether you have kids or not!