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The education system all over the world is often questioned. In India, modern education is often interrogated and even shunned simply because old ways of learning are preferred. Bollywood has realized that old fashioned ways of schooling are a way of a past and to encourage newer methods, and of course indulge in making films that depict these very novel ways. Interestingly, Aamir Khan has recently been most associated with this very idea with films like Rang De Basanti, Taare Zameen Par and 3 Idiots all talking about the modernization of the Indian education system. It is now Shahid Kapoor who is doing the same with Paathshala. Joining him in this Milind Ukey’s film is Ayesha Takia and Nana Patekar. The film is meant to divulge all taboos that make up the Indian educational system. With some pretty interesting music and an even more appealing star cast, Paathshala was all set to literally teach viewers a thing or two about learning. What grade will Paathshala get? You’re about to find out.

Rahul Udayvar (Shahid Kapoor) is an English teacher who is hired on by a local Vidya Mandir School. Almost immediately he realizes that the school is facing hard times which ultimately affect the students in all arenas of their education. He takes it upon himself to let the principal Aditya Sahai (Nana Patekar) know of possible changes that he could make which could help the school. As a way to generate quick funds, the principal allows a nasty reality show crew to come into the school and shoot as the children go about their regular school schedules. However, it turns out to become a situation which further troubles the students psychologically and physically. It is Mr. Udayvar who leads a revolution, rids the school of its reality show and brings about changes with the help of the school matron Anjali (Ayesha Takia).

If I was in this Vidya Mandir School, teacher or student, I would have either left and if that wasn’t possible, I would have gotten myself expelled. As for the script, it really has nothing and then too much. And rather than talking about how modern television has altered everything including the education system, we have crying students and money-giving parents; okay they call it “donations” followed by pressurizing teachers who strive on performance and not hard-work. The problem with the script is that the focus shifts from the education system to reality television and then doesn’t connect the two at all.

Performance-wise, Shahid Kapoor does his best in a role that doesn’t really say much or do much. However, even in this limited role, he is apt. Ayesha Takia is practically wasted and what’s the deal with her taking on the dual role of matron and nutritionist? Perhaps she needs to get on a weighing scale or look in a mirror even. Nana Patekar is fan-tas-tic. He steals the show from underneath the feet of the rest of the cast. As the principal he not only looks the role but fits the shoes and performs perfectly. One of his best performances as of late.

Paathshala is a film you can pretty much skive off. It entails nothing that you haven’t seen before and if you really do want to watch a film that causes you to really think, then you’re better off watching any of the previously mentioned ones.

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