Stanley ka Dabba: A deliciously moving experience

Stanley ka Dabba is an honest film that is worth the time and money, especially for the nostalgia trip it takes you on

Amole Gupte’s Stanley ka Dabba not only entertains, but also beings back fond memories of a childhood when there was no PlayStation or X-Box… not even the Internet. A little back story about how it all came about could take your movie watching experience to a new high. Gupte’s film was actually a series of workshops where kids came together over the weekend to share their dabbas and hone their creative skills. The director says, “I couldn’t very well tell a producer, ‘Give me money, but I don’t promise you a film’.” As a result, the budget for this one is unbelievably low, especially by the usual Bollywood standards, but it manages to touch hearts nevertheless.

As the title says, this is the story of Stanley, a school-going boy, and how a little change in his schedule adds to his woes. Add to that a monster teacher (played wonderfully by Gupte himself) who gobbles up the contents of the tiffin boxes little Stanley and his gang carry. The film is set around Christmas and shows how Stanley puts up a brave front even when confronted by the worst circumstances.

Seated inside a classroom, wearing the school uniform, all the children seem to be alike. But the fact is that every child has a story to tell. Sometimes it is abusive or hostile parents; at times self-esteem and insecurity issues are problems children have to deal with. Stanley ka Dabba raises many such problems without being preachy or showy. There is no attempt to emotionally manipulate the audience to sympathise with young Stanley, because he is a child with great self respect and self-confidence.

Gupte tells a story that is packed with so much innocence and warmth that it will connect the audience with childhood. The visuals are a treat, with children having fun uninhibitedly, the camera an invisible onlooker at Holy Family High School in Mumbai, where the movie is based.

Gupte has also written the lyrics and the poet in him does come through in a very beautiful way. Hitesh Sonik’s music has been used sparsely, but whatever little is heard does strike a chord. Sonik has been a music producer for a long time and has contributed to many of Vishal Bhardwaj’s films, like Kaminey and Omkara.

Shot on a still digital camera, this honest film is worth the time and money, especially for the nostalgia trip it takes you on.