‘Babanchi Shala’ is based on a true story by Neela Satyanarayan starring Sayaji Shinde, Aishwarya Narkar, Shashank Shinde, Chhaya Kadam, Aarti More, Kamlesh Sawant, Milind Adhikari, Uday Tikekar, Sharad Bhuthadia with the direction of R Viraj.
There is a popular quote by Woody Allen,which says,”It took a speed reading course and read War and Peace in 20 minutes. It involves Russia”. I assume that their maker of Babanchi Shala must have taken a similar speed viewing course when they watched ‘Do Aankhen Barah Haath’, a celebrated masterpiece by V Shantaram,and their only take away was that it involves a jail. Now Babanchi Shala is being relentlessly promoted as something on the line of ‘Do Aankhen Barah Haath,while in reality,all the films have in common, is a jail. Both the films also have sympathetic jailers, but the are unlike each other.
The story by Neela Satyanarayan takes place in a prison, which is under the supervision of the jailer Shrikant Jamade (Shinde). He comes across an inmate, Mahipat(Shende), guilty of murdering his wife in the heat of the moment. A person of good heart, Mahipat is desperate to meet his daughter Sonali (Aarti More). Worried by the behaviour of his own son, Jamdade connects with the issue and feels that even the inmates in a correctional facility need to be in touch with their families,which can be a step towards their permanent rehabilitation.He identifies a group of inmates and goes to work with the help of a social worker(Kadam).The film is quite uneven. The focus keeps shifting between Mahipat, Jamade and the rest of the inmates, so one is quite unable to make out who the story is about.The film has a frame story, where Jamade is facing an enquiry in which he has to justify the decisions that led to the escape of one of the inmates. Naturally ,the narrative unfolds as a statement in front of the committee. This would logically restrict the narration to what happened within the jail. But in the film there is a large part of narration centres on Jamade’s personal life. One can ignore this if the story is compelling, but its not.
One of the principle flaws with the screenplay is the lack of character detailing.With the possible exception of Jamade, all the other characters are one dimensional. There is no complexity and none of them seems real.We do get to know some details about Mahipat that he likes to read and write poetry,he was a peon, he had a good report with his daughter and used to love his wife and so on. But they never combine to form a believable person. Sayaji Shinde tries to make the most of his character but his efforts are not enough to save the film.
The bottom line is that Babanchi Shala scores on the good intention but struggles to make a passing grade.Babanchi Shala is a nice family movie to be watched.