Posted by: miilee | June 14, 2011

The Dabba Half Full

Point one: this is a LONG overdue post.
Point two: this is the first time I’m posting over my BB so pardon any formatting errors!

I went for Stanley Ka Dabba some time ago. Quiet frankly, I wasn’t too keen on the movie since I still had to catch Kungfu Panda 2 and Hangover 2, both of which I hear are unmissables.
But the family was keen on this one, so we caught the 9.00pm show.
I was pleasantly surprised. Not a bad make, I think. But definitely a one time see movie.
Several people I know claimed that it was a cut-paste version of Taare Zameen Par (TZP). Well, in some parts, I agree. In others, I’d say the film got its own unique flavor to the table.

Animated Start:
I liked the little animated clip that went with the title. It was a good summation of power games. It was cute.
Actors: I loved the kids! They were so natural! Generally, child artists can get into over acting but these guys were too good! Partho, who played Stanley was so earnest! The character’s beautiful nature came out wonderfully in his scenes. The Dabba Gang too was amazing. They weren’t camera conscious which goes to show that a lot of work was put into training these young artists. The staff too was amazingly realistic! In fact, Mrs. Iyer reminded me of one of my teachers! Also, It was a TZP déjà vu. Just like I felt back then, I am sure almost every student knows some ‘Rosy Miss’ and some ‘Khadoos’.
Script, Story, Screenplay and Dialogs: I liked the topic picked. It brought to mind, the sort of life we live here in Mumbai; despite the fact that we meet and interact with people every day, we might not know the other side of their lives. It sure is a disturbing thought.
I am guessing that the character sketches must have been very well written. Detailed and whisked into perfection. The story however would have done with a little more work. The first half of the film needed some more layering, a little more content. It was entertaining to see Stanley’s character and the way he behaved. But I had a niggling feeling that there was too much left unsaid. After the first 15 minutes, I was like, “Ok, Stanley is this cute, intelligent kid with something mysterious about him, he probably doesn’t have a mother and the kids in class like him. He doesn’t get a dabba. Now what?” but the story told me these things for the entire first half with the inclusion of Khadoos and Rosy Miss. I would have really liked it if we’d seen Stanley’s background a little earlier in the story with a touch and go situation with his friends almost finding out about his life beyond school. The dialog work was nice without being too dramatic. The mixing of English and Hindi like they do in typical missionary schools was well managed.
Music: The music was wonderful! It blended well with the movie. It had a nice flow and charm. Not exactly memorable, but the soundtrack was appropriate and did not stick out like a sore thumb. It wasn’t abrupt.
Camerawork: There is something called Piece to Camera where a character talks directly into the camera, in effect, speaking to the audience. Generally, it is a direct address. What they used in the film was somewhat similar, where the character is supposed to be speaking to another character but addresses the camera, in effect, putting the audience in the position of the other character. Not used often but we saw a lot of it in this movie. It was an interesting addition. I liked the effect but I wish they had used it more character specifically. The rest of it was clean and good. Point of view shots too were neat.
The Missing Pieces:
Like I said, I felt a lot was left unsaid. Being a teacher’s daughter myself, I am closely acquainted with the sort of characters shown. I had a few issues with some things that I think should have happened.
Rosy Miss: It didn’t get established for a long time that Rosy Miss was the class teacher. They could have shown her taking the roll call at least once. Also, she seemed to be the sort of teacher who cared about her class like her own children. Wouldn’t such a teacher try to find out more about the families of her pupils? Wouldn’t she have found out about Stanley’s background before? Especially after the dabba and khadoos incident, wouldn’t it have come to her that there was something amiss about a kid who would rather stay at home than bring a dabba? Also, after the concert, if Stanley said his mom was nearby, wouldn’t she have wanted to meet her?
Stanley’s equation with the Principal: The man obviously knew about Stanley’s life. I’d have liked to see more of their interactions. I’ve been a part of a Christian Missionary Institute and trust me, a Priest who brings in a kid like Stanley into his school would sought him out regularly to check how he is doing.
What’s with Khadoos: There were constant parallels on how Mr. Verma a.k.a Khadoos didn’t bring a dabba; just like Stanley. I wanted to know more about him. Why was he the way he was? Maybe he was a bachelor with no means of making food. Whatever. I wanted to know more about him.
Raj sir: With Raj Zutshi’s entry, I was looking forward to seeing more of him too. What was with him offering his dabba to Khadoos? What impact did his character have? I’d have loved to see more of him (also because he is one of the better actors in the industry, he should have been utilized a little more.)

I felt that a lot of strings were left unattached. Over all feel of the make was nice. The story of Stanley reached out to me. The school atmosphere has been captured very well. Nuances of child behavior, typical teachers etc shows a keen observation of people having gone into the making. I give the movie 3 stars, most of which is thanks to the kids.

All in all, I left the theatre thinking of all those things that could have made that potentially good thought into a real good movie….



  1. Wow. you have written a elaborate review. and nicely written. But i have my views on this movie. Being a movie buff, i can vouch that it is one of the better movies being made these days. Amole gupte has sucessful in keeping the story simple yet impactful. Till the last few moments in the movie, even i thought it was a regular movie. The way it movie takes a turn, is amazing. I agree, there are a few loose ends, but lets all agree its been made on 1/10th of a budget of TZP. also, efforts and time taken were very low. I m sure it this would have been properly produced, sprinkled with good music and appropriate editing, it would have been better. But nevertheless, it is one of the best movies in the recent times. It is a class apart. Kudos, Amole.

    • Like I always say, its perspective. However, having worked in the field for a while, I’d say that the budget affects the sort of actors you get (star rating wise), the locations, quality of music etc. The presentation elements. All these things in the movie were exceptionally good! Not only for that budget bracket but for all over!! Movies with higher budgets screw up on them!
      The story however, is purely creative input. And that is the only problem I had with the movie. The story may not have been as well thought out as all that. I get a feeling that Gupte ji might be a One Man Unit sort of person who likes to write his own work without a team. Therefore, the story kinda lacked the many more angles that it could have had. That’s the only thing I had an issue with. The rest of it was brilliance!

    • As an after thought: I probably should change the title of the review….

  2. Even if the dabba is half full, its a worth watch and far far better than the trash our Bollywood keeps churning.

    • Agreed! It was much better than most of the other junk!

  3. That’s one detailed and comprehensive review..! I haven’t seen the film yet, but was keen to watch. Now that you’ve given it a thumbs up with this exhaustive review of yours, I have no option but to watch it!

    • Glad you liked the review! However, please don’t let my thoughts taint your experience…. 🙂

  4. Glad to read a detailed review, commensurate with my sensibilities!
    I agree that the suspense surrounding Stanley never getting any dabba could have been further accentuated:
    1).maybe by interesting, plausible n varied excuses painted by Stanley from time to time,all of which converge and make delightful sense, once the climax is revealed(i.e. in keeping with his waitering life)!
    2).your brainwave of his friends just about finding his secret out(brilliant, by the way!), could have been depicted by the continuous presence of the restaurant, throughout the movie, in their lives as well,oblivious to the audience, ofcourse!
    3).come to think of it, your thirst for the reason behind Amole’s weird gluttony could have have been a very interesting parallel story (thought it might have taken valuable screen time away from the focus of the movie).
    4).I feel that Rosy Miss being a class teacher or not, was merely a very minor subplot. She was basically depicted as an angelic girl, who did’nt take her job a teacher beyond schoolhours, and I say, fair enough. Rosy Miss served her rightful purpose of being the feel good factor and eye candy of the movie.Period.
    5). Like u, I too was inquisitive to delve deeper into Raj sir’s behaviour, which almost demanded some closure considering the footage the character got.
    I agree that all the performances were of a remarkably high order.
    This is one movie which should be prominently rewarded at the commercial award functions for our Bollywood culture to become richer.

    All in all, as opposed to ur 3 star, I’d like to give it a 4 star.!!

    • First off, thanks for your detailed response! Feels nice to hear similar opinions!
      I agree with almost everything you say. Only the part about Amole Gupte’s back story taking screen time; that could be avoided by a simple change in his parting letter. Four lines of explanation would have been sufficient. Something like, “growing up without a mother has made me jealous of people who have mothers to pack dabbas for them… But the fact is that in my envy hides my lonely childhood. I hope you can forgive me…. Well… At least forgive the orphan in me…”
      It would have made me feel for the character a little more…
      But I do agree; this film desedrves accolades!

      • Nice!
        Dabba is definitely half full.

      • Sure is!

  5. That’s one heck of review. Watched the movie on TV yesterday and couldn’t help to wonder but wasn’t miss rosy supposed to be married during the christmas break (the children asked for invite to her marriage before the breaks) and the khadooss’ dabba incident happened after the break.So how do you justify your line “Especially after the dabba and khadoos incident, wouldn’t it have come to her that there was something amiss about a kid who would rather stay at home than bring a dabba.”

    • My mom is a teacher; has been for over a decade now…. No matter what happens with her personal life, when the kids in her class begin to behave differently, she never misses it. A teacher is like a soul reader; not the ones in the city we see these days, but the real, hard core teachers… Miss Rosy was portrayed as that sort of a person but her complete lack of knowledge about the kid’s background and situations is a li’l out of character…. Personal opinion!

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