Smallbudgets, big returns

Smallbudgets, big returns

For me, there is an undeniable charm about a nice little movie made on a shoestring budget. I don’t know if the fact that the makers have managed to squeeze the best out of their limited resources appeals to my middle class sensibilities or if the engineering geek in me is impressed with the way an optimum product has been arrived at by trying to make the most out of a constrained scenario. Or maybe it is just that given there isn’t enough money to splurge on locations, sets, stars, special effects, marketing and so on, the only option is to focus on the one thing that makes or breaks the movie- the plot, and make sure it is damn good. I have always been wary of the big budget extravaganzas that the Indian film industry regularly churns out, primarily, because the major areas of expense are the enormous star salaries and exotic foreign locations; both of which do little to enhance my movie experience. I can understand a big budget when your story demands it, like say a historical or something that needs visual effects, but when most of your budget has been used to film duets in pristine beaches and snow capped mountains, I will take the small budget movie any day. That’s precisely why I was mighty impressed with Do Dooni Char, which even with the somewhat gimmicky, but effective casting of Rishi and Neetu Kapoor and its simple and elegant screenplay, achieves way more than many of the big budget movies, while probably having been made with the cost of a song in them.

Considering the phenomenal growth in education as a business in recent years, the corresponding increase in teacher salaries has not been of the same scale.

Choosing right

Speaking of budgets, the protagonist in the movie is a middle class school teacher who  struggles to maintain his family on his meagre salary, even when supplemented by putting in extra hours at a tuition centre. When a series of events lead up to him deciding to buy a car even though it is beyond his means, he is faced with a moral conundrum that questions the very foundations of his career choice. The man at the helm of affairs, Habib Faisal, who wrote the screenplay for the fabulous Band Baaja Baaraat, does a great job of showcasing the instances of the family trying to live in a tight budget and how the children, who though old enough to understand the situation, cope with their frustrations in amusingly disparate ways- the son makes money through illegal betting to fund a exorbitant lifestyle for himself, while the teenaged daughter attempts to wiggle out of embarrassing situations. The denouement to significant plot points- when Rishi Kapoor discovers his son’s betting spoils and when his daughter understands the true value of his profession, are also pleasantly surprising. The greatest achievement of this movie is that, with the least amount of fuss,  it makes an emphatic point of how grossly undervalued teaching as a profession is and how teachers are rarely given credit for the magnitude of sacrifices they make.

Where’s the parity?

Considering the phenomenal growth in education as a business in recent years, the corresponding increase in teacher salaries has not been of the same scale. While private engineering and medical colleges as well as high schools make a lot of money through  hefty sums for admission as well as the generally high fees, any kind of profit sharing with the professors and teachers is almost unheard of. In the corporate world, while there is bound to be an inevitable imbalance in the dispersal of gains, employees at least have some benefits like stock options, bonuses and stock purchase programs to ensure they get a small share of the pie. Moreover, rather ironically, trainers at institutes for entrance exams for premier institutes make as much if not more as the professors in the premier institutes themselves.  Above all this, year in and year out, the students taught by the teachers end up with starting salaries that they might not get to see even when they retire. While one might argue that the motivations for pursuing a profession like teaching brings along with it a disregard for monetary benefits and a genuine passion towards their chosen line of work is what drives them, it still takes a great deal of unwavering commitment and resolve to be surrounded by opportunities of a much better lifestyle and yet remain steadfast in their career choice. To plant a tree whose benefits you might not live to see is a nice thing, but to plant an entire orchard is at a whole different level.