Shala Movie Review: Reliving School Days

Shala(School), the film, is about the experience of falling in love for the very first time at a tender age. It is set in the 70s when every other school wasn’t ‘international’ and they worked perfectly fine without the students having i-pads or any such fancy gadgets. It is also a coming of age story of four adolescents who are best of friends but are unaware of what turn their life will take at the end of the academic year of their school. Mind you, it is not a ‘children’s film’ but a ‘film on children’ which explores their psychology and behavior.

The adolescent love angle has been dealt with a very delicate hand. The performances by the leads go a long way in conveying the tenderness of experiencing love at such a young age. It will definitely resonate with those who have been through such a phase in life.

ketaki mategaonkar

But the most distinct part of the film is the immaculate description of school life. Shala which is based on a very popular marathi novel of the same name written by Milind Bokil, not only lives up to its tagline ‘revisit your school days’ but surpasses it. In the famous series of fantasy novels, Harry Potter and his associates get to a desired destination by using a portal. Shala is in a way such a portal which uses the magic of cinema to ‘cine’port you backward in time to the classroom you sat in your 9th standard. As a result, you end up ‘reliving’ and not only ‘revisiting’ your school days. Even though the film is set in the 70s emergency period, each and every soul who has had a time of his life sitting beside his best buddy on that wooden bench during high school would very easily relate to Shala. The portrayal of mischief like making funny gestures behind the teachers back when he/she is busy writing on the black board is so similar to what my mates did back then that I just couldn’t help myself from identifying the characters on screen with people I actually knew from that time. Astoundingly, our favourite ‘kaka’(peon) from then also shares the same name with the one in the film.  Everybody, without an exception, will have something so much in common with the story unfolding on screen that you would be left stunned. Shala is an excellent example of art imitating life.

Shala

Now, it certainly is no mean task to make a film which is equivalent to holding up a mirror to life. Filmmaking is about getting the right people together to fulfill the director’s vision. The young and very talented director Sujay Dahake seems to have done exactly that and it is very visible right throughout his film. The casting is just perfect. Despite being first time actors, all the kids have done exceedingly well that too with the movie being shot in sync sound. Apart from the protagonists played by Anshuman Joshi and Ketaki Mategaonkar, the boy who plays the character of the bully of the class named Mhatre is particularly very impressive. The film also has other interesting roles all played effectively by established marathi actors like Dilip Prabhavalkar, Santosh Juvekar, Jitendra Joshi, Nandu Madhav, Ashwini Giri and Amruta Khanvilkar amongst others.

Sujay Dahake

Spanish cameraman Diego Romero, who also was Sujay’s teacher at his film school, has done an excellent job in capturing the essence of living in a small town in India. In spite of the poor projection at the film’s screening at the 3rd Eye Asian Film Festival, the visuals were captivating.  Avinash Deshpande, the script writer, has to be applauded specially for the conversations in the film. They are exactly like how 14 year old guys would chat amongst themselves with all the swear words and references to girls intact. Also the dialogues related to emergency are wise without being preachy or clichéd. Alokananda Dasgupta has composed a compelling background score which despite sounding western gels very well with the film. Famous singer Rekha Bharadwaj has also lent her voice to a track and the beautiful ‘aalaaps’ in the background score composed by Ms.Dasgupta. Folk-rock band Agnee have composed 2 songs which though haven’t been included in the film are expected to release soon.

Another feature of the film is the effort put in to maintain authenticity, a rarity in Indian cinema indeed.  The movie has been specially shot on location at Panhala as the scenic hill station is protected by the Archeological Survey of India and thus its landscape hasn’t changed much from the 70s. Even the currency notes that are used only once in the film do feel like they are from the 70s which definitely speaks volumes of the attention to detail given by the production unit.

The opening titles of Shala have an uncanny similarity to the ones in the blockbuster of the period in which the movie is set in and obviously has a mention in the film viz. Sholay. Again it is very rare in Indian cinema to have used the opening titles with such ingenuity.

The brisk pace with which the plot unfolds helps in keeping your attention but also at places does minor injustice to some parts of the story which certainly deserve more time. Especially, the part where a fellow student commits suicide required more footage in the script as it isn’t a minor incident at all. Due to this some characters and their tracks do feel underdeveloped. As I haven’t read the book from which the film is adapted it would be unfair for me to say this, but it does feel like the scriptwriter wanted to have all the sub-plots from the book in the film and in the process had to sacrifice on the time consumed by each sub-plot. Those who have read the book can shed more light on this matter.

But Shala otherwise is an extremely lovable film. It will freshen up those wonderful memories from school. I reckon, watching Shala when it releases on the 20th of January with your school friends would without doubt make for an awesome reunion.

Follow Rasik on Twitter

(P.S.- Interview of the director Sujay Dahake can be read here)

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51 thoughts on “Shala Movie Review: Reliving School Days

  1. Had seen the trailer of this movie long back in PFC. Was wondering where was it and glad to know that you have seen it.. Will it get a theatrical release or its going to be only a festival favourite?

    • Though Marathi is my mother tongue and I can read and write it, I have never written in the language other than school exams. Even then I used too memorize the essays from essay books. So, the last thing I want is my language doing injustice to the matter. This is not to say my English is very good but I feel it is enough to communicate what I want to say. Maybe next time I will try writing in both English and Marathi.

    • then it would have been limited only to people who could read and understand Marathi, our aim is it to reach and make more people aware about the Regional films, those who do not generally see it or do not have access to it.

  2. Rasik I am only more than happy to see your continued zeal & enthusiasm in helping promote Marathi Cinema. Very few people write about Marathi Cinema on regular movie based platform & you are more than doing a stellar job.Keep it up & I’m glad to know that you really enjoyed Shala. I’m eagerly looking forward to the theatrical release now.

    • Thank you. Your appreciation is very encouraging.I think Marathi Cinema deserves it. Hopefully, well made movies like Shala which also have a high production value will pull more people to the cinema halls.

  3. heres a faux pas again! Mr Sujay Sunil Dahake…please look into the correct information about the score 🙂 ….corrections people..the original score and the song sung by the great Rekha Bhardwaj has been composed by moi Alokananda Dasgupta and the rest of the songs by the ever awesome Agnee! journalists please get your facts right 🙂

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  6. SHALA wachatana kahi tari vegale watate KHAAS……barikashi kul yete, potaaat gadbad hote,faar sundar chitran kele aahe, tyaa gallya, raste, roj jamaaychi ti building, AANIBAANI tle prasang, carrom khelnare baba aani birhaadkaroo. KADHI BAGHATOY ASE ZAALE AAHE.. cinema masta aselach…………thanks………..vivek marathe

  7. @ aloknanda – if m nt wrong the song wth Rekhaji is behne do and by agnee is SADAA, liked both of them. Tthe teasers are so promising , m surely gona watch the film this weekend and @rasik – ur name suits u 🙂

  8. Pingback: NG » Blog Archive » Shala Movie Review: Reliving School Days

  9. Having seen the movie yesterday I can relate to the post also a lot more now. A wonderful and honest film that works big time. It was a nearly housefull show at Huma Big Cinemas yesterday and the audience enjoyed it.

  10. Saw it yesterday and the journey was more than good….Though it could have been brilliant and some films should not necessarily opt for the now mandatory 2 hr justification…

    The movie has got a stillness which is refreshing and should have carried on without falling in such traps…The cinematography was a class act and so were the believable performances…

  11. Glad you saw it 🙂 Yes, you are spot on with that 2hr running time. Shala was so engrossing that the time just flew by. Fleshing out of some other characters and sub plots would have made the film achieve greatness which i feel it just stops short of.

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  14. Totally agree with review… The movie is beautiful but it does not do justice to some scenes. I had read the book so the gaps were obvoius to me.
    But teh performances of the kids and cinematography make it very engaging and gives you the nostalic feeling.

  15. (Sorry for the long comment )

    Rasik-

    First of all a big thank you for the super review.very nice and detail write up. I saw the film very recently and was mesmerized by the film.Right from the moment it started there was a grin on the face.I felt someone actually had put a spy camera in our classroom when I was in 9th std.I mean in 90% of film,I was saying to myself “hey this happened to me 10 years back”

    Every aspect be it bunking tuitions,copying homework(which I never used to do),making gestures behind teachers back,playing cricket,getting involved in gunda activities,staring at teachers,getting caned was covered and I can vouchfor the fact that almost 25% of my school friends(mostly boys) went through this phase.also the end was so very relevant (when the boy says that some guys have left school for good and who knows where would one be after this?)
    Having left the place where I lived for 20 years,I can vouch for the veracity about the end shown in the film as I have no contacts whatsover with the school mates and have no clue about what they are upto this days.

    Ye film ne aur Tere post ne to school ki yaad dila di bhai

    Thank you Sethu sir for starting the site and thanks once again Rasik for posting this fantabolous review

    • Yes man.You can relate it to it so much that even i was feeling like ‘this is my story’. Such a lovely comment why the hell do you feel sorry about it! Thanks so much for the feedback and i would gladly lap up even longer comments from you. 🙂

  16. Hi ,

    I seen this movie twicely, it was very nice experience to watch this movie.Specially the 1976’s atmosphere created wonderfully, in the begining it has shown the empty scool (It will remember ur school) adding the students in next schene. The mixing of Hum Honge Kamyab it creates very nice nostalgica.
    Really thanxs to Dahake for giving this wonderful movie and now we have more hopes for like this wonderful movie.

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