– Md. Sami Ahmad
This Teachers’ Day, ‘Chalk N Duster’ is an excellent film to watch to understand how the greed of being the most earning school eventually brings misery.
Directed by Jayant Gilatar, ‘Chalk N Duster’ is focused on two teachers Vidya Sawant (played by Shabana Azmi) and Jyoti Thakur (played by Juhi Chawla) who impart knowledge and values to students in a middle-class school. However, when an only-profit-minded lady becomes the principal, the teachers are faced with all the satanic tactics of the corporate world to harass the old and argumentative teachers, and terminate or shut them down. The other cast are Zarina Wahab, Arya Babbar, Divya Dutta, Rishi Kapoor and Richa Chadda.
A school named Kantaben High School is running well with Indu ji (played by Zarina Wahab) as its principal and Kamini Gupta (played by Divya Dutta) as the vice principal. Soon, the school gets new chairman who is too ambitious. Indu ji is removed as principal and Kamini Gupta is appointed new principal. The duo of new chairman and the principal want to make the school more presentable to the rich and do not care for the lesser ones.
Kamini succeeds in convincing the management that old teachers are not needed as they are paid more. But she chooses to make the situation hell for them instead of asking the ‘unwanted teachers’ to resign.
The teachers are asked to come earlier, they are made to wait even after duty hours and they are deprived of some of the facilities like complimentary tea and fee waiver for the teachers’ ward.
One day, the most experienced and loved teacher Vidya Sawant is humiliated by the new Principal over her style of teaching trigonometry. There is a heated exchange between the two and finally Vidya gets a termination letter. Instantly, Vidya gets a heart attack and Jyoti takes her to hospital.
Jyoti took help from the media and the principal knew that that was harming the school and the management. So, she tries to win over Jyoti’s husband by offering a contract to purchase computers ‘with no commission’. The principal also offers to make Jyoti a supervisor. Jyoti’s husband agrees but he has to back off after Jyoti’s stern refusal.
Jyoti exposes the school management in the media and succeeds quite a bit. But when Jyoti tries to unite other teachers, she fails to garner support from them. Not even a single teacher comes forward to support her. To fight Jyoti’s media endeavours, the school management hired another media outlet to prove its point. So, there is a brief media war also but finally, an interview with old students of Vidya Sawant comes to prove that she was a good teacher.
During the media war, the other teacher Jyoti made a few passionate points about the non-recognition of the profession of teaching.
The movie gives a good message till this point but its end with a quiz contest seems flimsy. There is a bet between the management of the school and the terminated teachers. The teacher duo won the quiz with some tough questions like a question about Hanuman Chalisa.
But how could the ability and respectability of a teacher be decided by 10 questions of general knowledge? The film also promotes some questionable religious beliefs like the one when a Tulsidas Doha is proved as some scientific calculation. The end could have been better.