It's a very warm film and can make you nostalgic. It brings out irony that is part of everyday life. It comments on a blistering issue in society, but it doesn't let the issue take over the film. But it is also very slow and predictable.
Stanley ka Dabba, the title by itself warmed me up to the film. I used to be that lazy one in school who'd never get her "tiffin box". And this is after my little sister would pack it early in the morning. I don't know, my own dabba just never was fascinating enough. Years later, as I watch Stanley ka Dabba, I realize maybe it was a 'bonding' thing for me. Many friends made over shared parathas and buscuits. Sure, Stanley's reason for not bringing food for himself is as far from laziness as it could be, but the fact that he didn’t have his meal with him brought the same result. Many friends and lovely memories. Despite this fondness though, Stanley ka Dabba seemed slow, predictable and repetitive in its 95 minute duration.
Stanley ka Dabba's promo also makes you believe that there is going to be something really deep in the film that will take repeated viewings to deconstruct. It raises a question about Stanley's background that remains unanswered till the last ten minutes of the film. By then, you have pretty much made up your own sad story about his family and probable life-style situation. And the climax gives you exactly that. In that sense, the film is unpredictable, right? You were expecting something more, something beyond the superficial but didn't get it.
But who says every film has to have a zen moment of realization? For what it is, Stanley ka Dabba is perfectly enjoyable because of its simplicity and how relatable it is. A science teacher who constantly asks you to stick to the norms, a unreasonable Hindi teacher who insists that the Goddess of knowledge will oblige only if you use the right hand. Stanley ka Dabba is all about simple things like these and the fact that every student who has come out of a traditional Indian school environment will find something to smile at.
And if you can't identify with the events of the film, there's always Stanley to smile with. Partho plays the charming Stanley, a master story-teller, who has a very strong self-esteem. In fact, all the kids in the film are perfect in their roles - almost as if they aren't acting at all.
The kids in the theater around me seemed to love every minute they spent with Stanley. They didn't seem to mind the slow pace or the repetition. It didn't matter that there seemed to be no valid reason for the angst and resolution thereof between Stanley and his Hindi teacher. Nor did they care that the climax does nothing outside the box. The protagonist is the hero and has a story that tugs the right strings for that lumpy throat.
I'm really curious how the film is going to be liked at film festivals both Indian and international. The context is very Indian. In fact, it is documentation of the education system and the culture revolving in schools in India. Fortunately, the "new-age" schools might be changing the teacher-facing experience. Unfortunately though it might be changing the dabba experience too.
- meetu, a part of the audience
If you cannot see a video above, click here to see it on YouTube