The lack of good education or a misrepresented form of it is the bane of India. One can modify this to say that the real curse is the absence of 'real' education - education that is beyond what is offered in textbooks.
Ananth Narayan Mahadevan's latest work, Rough Book - which is part of the ongoing National Film Development Corporation's (NFDC) Film Bazaar in Panaji, Goa - is precisely about this issue. The movie was shown in the section titled Industry Screenings.
In a nation which fancies cramming and grades, Rough Book narrates the story of a schoolteacher (essayed by Tannishtha Chatterjee (the actress who featured in Brick Lane, Monsoon Shootout, Gulaab Gang, Chauranga) who runs into one obstacle after another because she believes in teaching physics (in her case) not merely through books. For instance, she believes in taking her young students out of the classroom to show how the law of physics works rather than confining them to boring lectures in boxed-up places.
Obviously, a society driven by consumerist ideals where marks count and help one to land a plum position, has no time or inclination for a concept called real education.
Mahadevan's movie - neatly scripted at 92 minutes - may seem a bit too idealistic in today's India, even ambitious, but Rough Book makes its point with a flourish.
Speaking about Rough Book, Mahadevan said how passionate he was about the subject. "My Rough Book is based on true incidents - several of them - which I came across over the years." He felt that India must take another look at its education policy. Even more significant about Rough Book is the way it highlights the importance of accepting failure. The teacher's mother in the movie says that one must celebrate defeat as one must a win.
This, though, is easier said than done in a community where the young are either devouring their school or college texts or playing with their mobile phones, indulging in faceless conversations with peers or friends. Where then is the time or energy for outdoor games or pleasure reading?
Mahadevan's Rough Book may not cause a tsunami in a society obsessed with money and marks, but is sure to cause strong ripples.
(The Film Bazaar - which runs along with the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) - facilitates meetings between directors and funding agencies, and also helps helmers, brush up their scripts through mentoring by international experts, among other things.)
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering IFFI 2014 and the Film Bazaar for Hindustan Times.)