Movie Review: Paathshaala (2010)

0.5 Stars (out of 4)

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The first scene in Paathshaala contains a closeup of a boy’s crotch as he pees himself. Need I write more, or is that sufficient evidence that this is a terrible movie?

Paathshaala (“School”) strives to be the after school special version of Taare Zameen Par, a movie which itself is drearily on-the-nose in its critique of the Indian school system. Paathshaala lacks sophistication in its storytelling and bores as it attempts to make a statement.

Nana Patekar plays Aditya Sahay, principal of an elite private boarding school that’s low on funds. Shortly after the arrival of a new English teacher named Rahul (Shahid Kapoor), the well-respected principal announces bizarre changes at the school.

Sahay turns control of the school over to a management firm who want to increase the school’s profile and cash flow by entering all of the students in reality TV competition shows. Rather than studying, students spend the day auditioning for singing competitions and arranging themselves in human pyramids in the hot sun.

Why Sahay allows his school to be turned into a joke isn’t explained until the last ten minutes of the movie. The explanation is ludicrous: the school board demanded more revenue and, out of other options and not wishing to burden the staff and students with the problem, Sahay allowed the board to implement changes.

This is stupid for a number of reasons. First, there’s no reason for Sahay to keep the board’s demands secret. It would’ve been a more interesting movie had he explained the problem and the students themselves came up with the plan to compete on reality shows.

The second issue with Sahay quietly acceding to the board’s wishes is that it turns him into a villain. He assumes responsibility for the changes even as his students pay the price in injuries, exhaustion and missed educational opportunities. If Sahay loves his school as much as he claims to in a tedious speech at the end of the film, he never would’ve put his students at risk.

Sahay, however, isn’t even the focal point of the movie; Shahid Kapoor is front and center on the movie poster. Rahul is supposed to be the cute, cool new teacher. He wears jeans in class, high fives his students and plays guitar for them (though Kapoor doesn’t bother to strum the guitar as he “plays” it).

Rahul’s attempts to befriend his pupils would have the opposite effect in reality. The kids would think he was trying too hard to be one of them and dismiss him as a dork.

The rest of the teachers are mere caricatures. The nutritionist/lunch lady played by Ayesha Takia is there to look pretty. The kids are supposed to be cute but wind up as annoying screen fillers. In every respect, Paathshaala fails to make the grade.

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