Inspite of the many flaws, CHALK N DUSTER by debutante director Jayant Gilatar is still a watchable film that brings a lump to your throat.
The movie is about the noble profession of teaching. Inadvertently, without even knowing it, Gilatar throws light on the petty politics that exists at every level in organizations; where someone less talented, but with the energy to move up the ladder, will stoop to any level of chamchagiri
. It also throws light on incompetent bosses with no family life who try to harass employees for their own sadistic gain.
Viewed in this light, the subject is a winner, but the lighting and production expertise of this film leaves a lot to be desired. The lighting is harsh and camera angles are not befitting a cinematographer of the level of Baba Azmi. Most characters, like that of Arya Babbar and his father; Jackie Shroff, the television news anchors, the politician and the supervisor in the school are either loud or 'abstract' even in its most loud form!
At times it gives you a feel that you are watching a television serial. Nevertheless, the script at its core is solid and that is what saves the day for Gilatar, apart from Shabana Azmi and Juhi Chawla.
Kamini Gupta (Divya Dutta) is a supervisor in Kantaben School who likes to harass her subordinates. At every opportunity she uses the name of the principal to get things done, when in reality, the principal (a good lady played by Zarina Wahab) is not aware of anything. Kamini is shown as this mean, scheming woman who succeeds in getting the chair of the principal and onto the lap of the owners of the school. Arya Babbar happens to be the young MBA returned from UK who is given the task of running the school.
Kamini manages to influence the youngster in such a way that she runs the school like a dictator in the hope of getting the old staff to leave. Meanwhile, the youngster wants to make his school famous, even more famous that the one run by Jackie Shroff in the neighbourhood.
Things get out of hand when Vidya (Shabana Azmi), a Math teacher in the school for over 28 years, is insulted. She suffers a heart attack. The Media gets a wind of this and Kantaben School is in focus and famous.
Here is where the director gets it all wrong. One cannot understand why the seniors on the board cannot see the damage that is being done by a bull-headed Kamini and why they cannot step in and stop the flow. Instead they go all out to malign the teachers even further.
These ''gujarati'' businessmen want to make a business out of education and make a mess of their module. Maybe, that is what Gilatar wanted to show! The stress on gujarati
is as it is delivered in the movie!
To cut the long story short, all ex-students of Vidya and Jyoti (Juhi Chawla) who is the only teacher to support her friend, write back to the channel explaining how their teaching helped them soar heights. All are in responsible positions across the globe.
That too is not enough for Gilatar. He infuses a sub-plot where the teachers have to prove their worth in a quiz show to access whether they are worth it!
They agree to this ridiculous suggestion while Kamini sits across the table with the young businessman, smirking and making silly faces. Will the teachers win this test of their knowledge?
Shabana Azmi and Juhi Chawla are the only two who keep the proceedings in check. Divya Dutta overdoes her khadoos
act and Gilatar flaws in not showing what exactly the cause of this neurotic behavior of hers is. Arya Babbar enters with a bang, but there is little he can do, apart from smirk and frown given the fact that he is handed a weak character. Ditto Jackie Shroff.
Go watch CHALK N DUSTER. Like I said, inspite of its obvious flaws, it's still worth a watch. The quiz round towards the end is quite entertaining with his suspense. The scenes where Vidya teaches with care and concern in school and her neighbourhood are enlightening. Juhi Chawla as her solid friend is endearing. And although the scenes where the ex-students and students in general come to the help of Vidya when she is in hospital appear over-the-top, it still manages to strike a chord in you.