Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Writing on the screen

“Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.” – Prof John Keating in Dead Poets Society.

Sticking to the education system has been a familiar plot on celluloid on both sides of the Atlantic. Most were spearheaded by the nonconformist-teacher protagonists who in classic Lockean/Rousseauesque style showed little respect for time-honoured educational processes and encouraged individualism, intuition and creativity. Hollywood clearly took the lead with “Blackboard Jungle” (1955) where Glenn Ford sets about to have his way with kindness in an urban high school teeming with hoodlums given to insolence and crime. One of the punks, incidentally, was played by Sidney Poitier who, years later, was to find himself on the other side of the lectern in “To Sir, With Love” (1967). The way Mark Thackeray – a black unemployed engineer who decides to bide his time in a teaching job in London and earns the respect and friendship of an all-white batch of juvenile delinquents is a tale that never fails to bring up that lump in the throat on every viewing.

Classroom redemption was quite a hit in the 80s with “The Principal” (1987), “Stand and Deliver” (1988), “Lean on Me” (1989) and of course, “Dead Poets Society” (1989). “Lean on Me” had a desperate Morgan Freeman trying to stave off state control of a school overrun by drugs and indiscipline, while “Stand…” deployed Calculus classes as a metaphor for lessons in self-discovery and confidence. And who can forget Mr Keating (Robin Williams) in “Dead Poets..” where he is rewarded with poetic justice (literally!) in the end as his transformed bunch of wards rise and hail ‘O Captain, My Captain’ in the face of authority! Closer home, it inspired the fiddle-toting Raj Aryan in “Mohabbatein” (2000). Other Bollywood ventures with the teacher-disengaging-tradition subject, some forgettable “To Sir With Love” rip-offs notwithstanding, were “Jagriti” (1956), and more recently, another Aamir bull’s-eye, "Taare Zameen Par" (2007). Hirani’s “Munnabhai MBBS” (2003) mocked the medical school high-handedness a la “Patch Adams” (1998).

Female teachers making a difference in seemingly intractable lives were seen in “Freedom Writers” (2007) – Hillary Swank playing real-life hero Erin Gruwell – and Michelle Pfeiffer-starring “Dangerous Minds” (1995). Then again, with teachers like those, who wouldn’t fall in line?

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Source :
IIPM Editorial, 2009

An IIPM and Professor Arindam Chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist) Initiative

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