Shala (2011) Movie Review

A refresh­ing break from all kinds of main­stream movies, Sha­la (2011) pro­vides a glimpse into teenage love dur­ing school­days, in a rur­al set­ting and back­drop of Maha­rash­tra, India. It is a movie that will take many Maha­rash­tri­ans on a trip down the nos­tal­gic lane.

 

The lead char­ac­ter is Mukund, a stu­dent in the 9th grade, who falls in love with the charm­ing girl, Shi­rod­kar. Mukund is among the bright­est in his class and the movie does a good job in por­tray­ing him as one of those who are intel­lec­tu­al­ly a lev­el above their peers, with­out being snob­bish about it. There is the usu­al palette of teach­ers, from kind and lib­er­al to the harsh dis­ci­pli­nar­i­ans, that one finds in any aver­age Indi­an school. There are the admon­ish­ing but lov­ing par­ents, and there are groups of class­mates who hang out togeth­er after school to secre­tive­ly stare at the vil­lage girls as they pass by the road. There are lakes where one sits by the rocks in intro­spec­tion or for close talks with a friend, and there are moun­tains and sun­sets evok­ing the earthy fla­vors of rus­tic life. Diego Romero’s cin­e­matog­ra­phy cap­tures all this vivid­ly, with a mix of close ups and vis­tas, with a lev­el of sophis­ti­ca­tion that was absent in Marathi films for decades.

Teenage love is a dif­fi­cult sub­ject, and Shala’s endear­ing aspect to me is that it does jus­tice to it, treat­ing it with del­i­ca­cy and care. Teenage love is almost always sur­rep­ti­tious as it hap­pens under the sus­pi­cious super­vi­sion of grown-ups; it starts out in a psy­cho­log­i­cal state where one is unaware of it at the begin­ning and real­iza­tion dawns slow­ly; it is pure, dri­ven by romance and not lust; it is infan­tile in the sense that a meet­ing of the eyes feels like a pas­sion­ate kiss; and final­ly, it is almost always doomed to be lost for­ev­er. Sha­la encom­pass­es and treats all these aspects with sen­si­tiv­i­ty and charm.

Keta­ki Mategaonkar’s cast­ing as the charm­ing Shi­rod­kar is a huge state­ment. She is not beau­ti­ful in any con­ven­tion­al sense, but the movie makes her beau­ti­ful as it makes you look at her through Mukund’s eyes. Mate­gaonkar does a pass­able job with her role, pri­mar­i­ly exud­ing shy­ness and charm, but also reveal­ing that unspo­ken acknowl­edg­ment of love in her eyes. On the oth­er hand, Anshu­man Joshi’s per­for­mance as Mukund is the back­bone of the movie and he shoul­ders that respon­si­bil­i­ty with amaz­ing grace. He is mas­ter­ful in the entire reper­toire of emo­tions, and is a nat­ur­al actor.

Most of the back­ground cast of grown-ups do a pass­able job, with some scenes becom­ing awk­ward due to ama­teur­ish per­for­mances. The music is pleas­ant and unob­tru­sive for the most part, which is an achieve­ment in Marathi cin­e­ma. Sen­ti­men­tal­i­ty oozes beyond accept­able lim­its only once or twice, and the emo­tion­al quo­tient is held in admirable restraint through­out the movie.

All in all, a pleas­ant movie that could have been bet­ter with a bet­ter sup­port­ing cast, but nev­er­the­less can be enjoyed thor­ough­ly.

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  • Hegde

    I do not under­stand Marathi, but still I have watched this movie , stun­ning per­for­mances.