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Chalk N Duster  : Back To Blackboards
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Friday, January 15, 2016
Jayant Gilatar
Shabana Azmi, Rishi Kapoor, Jackie Shroff, Juhi Chawla, Divya Dutta, Zarina Wahab

Looking at academics as a business is a topic that’ll always be relevant.


Top it with proficient performances from an array of actors as polished as Shabana Azmi, Juhi Chawla, Zarina Wahab, Rishi Kapoor and Divya Dutta, and a film like Chalk N Duster gets a dignity of its own.


When wicked Miss Kamini Gupta connives with businessman and trustee Anmol Parekh to oust respected principal Indu Shastri, the era of Lalita Pawar returns to the classrooms of Kantaben High School.


Writers Ranjeev and Neetu Verma and director Jayant Gilatar take us through the corridors of the ambitious and the callous where Kamini rules like a dictator. Selling dreams of turning Kantaben into the most prestigious school in the state, Kamini gets PTA members and business-inclined trustees on her side. Senior teachers are humiliated in a bid to get them to resign and replace them with cheaper youngsters. And the school politics snowballs into an issue fit for the TV channels to debate.


Spotlighting the meagre take-home salaries and the sidelining of the noble profession of teaching, Chalk N Duster sledgehammers several points. With Shabana Azmi as dedicated senior teacher Vidya Sawant, Juhi Chawla as the talented Jyoti Thakur and Zarina Wahab as ex-principal Indu Shastri, there are many moments in the school drama that ring true. Especially when Divya Dutta as the deliciously wicked Kamini, saps the enthusiasm of the sincere teachers. Rishi Kapoor enters in an implausible climax but his efficiency makes the sequence watchable.    


Where the film fails is in its old world look and the exaggerated fallout of a local school issue. Though one must concede that you never know when a small flare-up could turn into a mass movement, there are many inexplicable turns in the screenplay, like Jackie Shroff’s incomplete role in the proceedings. 


Songs like Shabana teaching BODMAS or a patriotic item on Annual Day should have been melodious and hummable but they add further dullness to the classroom.      


Chalk N Duster therefore has a worthy premise and fine performances but without the sparkle of the computer age, it looks outdated.


For a noble subject with limited appeal, Chalk N Duster gets a 2.5* rating.


Reviewed by
Bharathi S Pradhan
Journalist & Author

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