We all have had our tryst with public schools; know how they function and now somebody has cared to make a film on these “modern temples of education”. It has turned out to be a brilliant effort that reinstates our faith in good teachers and their value in our lives. Also, it raises questions on the utility of schools that promise everything but good textbook-driven education.
Chalk N Duster is mostly about the management of a popular public school Kantaben High School where Indu Ji (Zarina Wahab) is the principal. Kamini Gupta (Divya Dutta), who can’t see education and business in seclusion, is her deputy. Vidya Sawant (Shabana Azmi) and Jyoti Thakur (Juhi Chawla) are senior and much-loved teachers who put their students above everything. Has it started to remind you of Shahid Kapoor-starrer Paathshaala? Well, that film was also based on a similar theme. But this one dares to venture beyond the school’s staffroom.
One fine day, the management decides to pass the chairman’s baton to an ambitious, foreign-educated hothead. Played by Arya Babbar, the new chief wants to make the school more presentable to the rich and mighty, thereby triggering a conflict with Vidya and Jyoti. In no time, it becomes a direct war between the management and teachers. But who is on the right side of the fence? Why should a public school bother about the people who can’t pay enough? Who is responsible for such a situation where teachers are bound to become order-following clerks? Can a teacher induce the habit of free thinking in students in such a scenario? Do teachers really need to be seen as gurus?
Those who’re familiar with the practice of PTAs in public schools would know the four-layered security wall around the management. Crossing the reception doesn’t make it easier for parents as they still have to encounter the class teachers, supervisors and some other people to meet the person who actually has the authority to take decisions. What would happen if any of these is a control-freak? It would immediately break the chain of communication and ultimately the message will not reach the right people.