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Amole Gupte's Stanley Ka Dabba Turns 13

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In Stanley Ka Dabba director Amole Gupte looks for and finds an enormously engaging and humane story in the normal tenor of a 10-year old boy's school life. The screenplay is almost Chekhovian in mood. The school premises where we meet Stanley and his friends becomes a playground for a sharp and savagely satirical power-play between the endearing and popular Stanley and his mean-minded Hindi teacher (Amole Gupte, lending a mouth-watering fluency to his part).Around the teacher and the taught there emerges a plot that is tender and taut, slender but nonetheless resonant in its comment on what it means to be a growing child in an increasingly-competitive society. The narrative is buoyed by brilliant use of stage devices such as musical pieces that encircle the characters' lives like colourful strings of paper decoration at a children's birthday party.

Among its many exceptional virtues the one that stands out in Stanley Ka Dabba the most is the performance of Partho in the title role. Before watching him it was impossible to believe a child could bring so much understated emotion into his character. Now after watching Partho it would be very difficult to watch other child actors attempt a similar threshold of emotive expression.

When I spoke to Partho after the film’s release he tried to be modest about his big achievement. “I guess I am thrilled. But I have a long way to go. Just because I've performed well in one film doesn't mean I'm a good actor. I'm giving lots of interviews here. They want to know everything about my character, like why he eats with his fingers and why he sleeps on the floor, etc etc. I am enjoying answering the questions. But I am getting impatient. Baba and Maa are going to take me to other parts of Germany as soon as we're done here."

Speaking on how Stanley got the role he said, “When I was younger, dad was working on Taare Zameen Par. He had been conducting acting workshops for children, which I was interested in. So one day I asked dad if I too can come for one these workshops. I had lots of fun. From then onwards, I went to every workshop including the one happening at Holy Family school. I wasn't told about any movie though. One day, dad announced to everyone in the workshop that he was making a video. He didn't tell us it was a film. Only when we completed shooting, he called all of us and told us that it was a feature film. My heart started beating so fast. I was blown out of my mind. I got so scared. I asked him why he didn't tell us before. He did not want to influence our performances. My dad has made many short films with me. I thought this feature film was one of them.

Comparing the experience of working with Darsheel Safari in Taare Zameen Par Amole observes, “With Darsheel, I didn’t get much time to teach him about cinema as I wished. I don’t want to go into the nitty-gritty of why I was not given ample time to make Darsheel a full-fledged actor. With Partho, it was different. I introduced him to world cinema from the age of four. Every child is an individual. We can’t compare Darsheel and Partho.”

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