By The Gorgeous Palah Chingu
Shala (2011) is a bit of everything that will instantly make you miss your school. It does not matter whether that is where you met your first love, the first time you were being punished by your teacher, the times you spent with your classmates and friends or what grade did you flunked and cannot proceed to the following grade. This only happened at school. Joshi, the main character is a smart and hardworking boy in the class. He is surrounded by his friends (Surya or also known as Mathe, Chitrya and Favdya) who didn’t really do well in their studies. Prior to that, he’s ended up being a helper in their study and homework. He doesn’t mind it because they all are friends. After all, what are friends for? The friendship that they had is beautiful. When Joshi got bullied, his friends defended him. When Joshi got beaten by her teacher, his friends searched for a school guardian so that he could apply an ointment on Joshi’s wound. Joshi is looked up by his friends and whenever they play quizzes between boys and girls, they knew they can depend on Joshi. He always managed to get a correct answer.
Joshi is raised in a typical Indian family (but not very typical, I guess). He has a mom who does not working and a sister who just finished school and waiting to get married. The time setting for this film is the pre-emergency (set in the 70’s in the rural India). I don’t know much about India’s history but while watching the film, I saw many conversations led to how the time is not right and people are being extra careful to their surrounding because they don’t know when it will happen. The talk of ‘emergency’ suddenly become a sensitive issue and people avoided to talk about it in the open space. Joshi, being a very perceptive and a good listener, knew about it and felt it is not right. He discussed it with his teacher where his teacher pointed out that Joshi is right but he can’t talk about it any further due to Joshi is still young at that time.
Joshi has a very close relationship to his uncle. For him, His uncle is the liberation source of him. He learned English from him and even went to watch many English movies together with him. His uncle treated Joshi like friend but in the same time, insisted him to keep focused and motivated in study but never forget to follow his heart. In this film, it showed that Joshi dare to do many things due to his uncle’s advice. I remember one particular scene where Joshi met his classmate at Cineplex and scoffed her at the back for going out with a guy who is a lot older than her. His uncle then said to him ‘You were supposed to applaud her for her boldness. It is because of people like her that our country can move forward and progress. Her bravery to do something that people cannot do is something to be admired’. You’ve got to admit it is true. It makes sense if you heard it in the 70’s. It is the time where mostly parents are conservative.
In this film, Joshi’s age is 14. It is the age of teens. It is the time where people will say ‘boys will be boys’ and it goes vice versa. Joshi did like one of his classmates named Shirodkar but he can’t bring himself to confess to her. He was shy and so was she. They exchanged glance in the class but that was it. He then took initiative to attend extra tuition where he found out earlier that Shirodkar also attended. He was happy and tried to strategize on how he could talk to her. Later, he confessed to her. They became friends for a brief amount of time. Not long after that, one of Joshi’s friend, Surya wanted to confess to a girl he liked. Joshi does not want to accompany Surya but he was dragged along by him. Sadly, the confession went wrong and the girl rejected Surya right away. When they were in the class that day, they were called by the principal. The girl reported to her parent and her parent brought this matter to school. Surya and Joshi were being canned and were told to bring their father to the meeting on the following day. The fault is not so serious but the girl framed Surya that he held her hand and Joshi was his accomplice. They denied the allegation to the principal but the principal refused to listen.
When Joshi brought the warning to his father, his father remained calm and quiet. His mother and sister repeatedly scolded him and could not understand why his father didn’t hit him. It was quite a relief seeing his father and his uncle is very similar in educating the children. They communicated and talked first to know what really happened. Joshi told his father everything and swore that he and surya didn’t touch the girl’s hand at all. He told his father that Surya confessed his love to the girl and when he’s being turned down by the girl, they let the girl passed by. His father smiled at Joshi and hugged him assured that nothing will happen to him. We all know that to have a father like Joshi is one in a million ratios especially when you are from typical Asian family. You will be scolded first although you are innocent just like his sister and mother did to him. His father insisted that the girl told the truth and assured the principal that this was puberty case. They were growing up and they tend to do a reckless thing.
This film basically emphasized on the point that you have to cherish every moment in your life. If you don’t, you will regret later for not doing so. When everything is going so well in Joshi’s life, Shirodkar moved away and didn’t even meet Joshi to bid adieu. Joshi managed to get the fifth place in his 9th grade and will proceed to 10th grade. However, 2 of his friends failed the exam and another one is quitting school due to his family problems. At the final scene, Joshi sat on the big rock alone and sobbing that he’s going to face 10th grade without his friends. By the way, Shala in Marathi means School.