This week’s release, Chalk and Duster, is about school teachers. It is time cinema gave the teaching profession its due at a time when teachers are no longer given the respect due to a guru. It is equally true that not all teachers are gurus.
Time to have a look at some of Bollywood’s teachers. One of the top favourites would be Aamir Khan’s Ram Shankar Nikumbh of Taare Zameen Par, the wise and kind teacher who understands the problems of the lonely Ishaan (Darsheel Safary), rightly diagnoses dyslexia and teaches not just characters in the film but the whole country, about the much misunderstood and neglected affliction and did a lot of parents a big favour.
Film teachers are often given the responsibility of straightening out troublesome students-right from Jagriti (1954) in which a devoted teacher, Abhi Bhattacharya, tries to instill the right values in his students. Vinod Khanna in Imtihaan plays a professor who has to deal with a bunch of rowdy students. Raaj Kumar led students against injustice in Bulandi. In Hip Hip Hurray, Raj Kiran straightened out a rebel without a cause. Which is something like what Nagesh Kukunoor did in Rockford. In another time and another kind of set up, so did Sujata Mehta in Pratighaat.
In Mohabbatein, Shah Rukh Khan played a music teacher who finds rules constricting and wants his students to think for themselves, which puts him on a collision course with the principal (Amitabh Bachchan). Shahid Kapoor played a music teacher too in Paathshala, who takes on an uncaring school management. Bachchan played a principled teacher in Aarakshan, one who finds himself amidst a reservation row. Naseeruddin Shah played a teacher in Sir who goes out on a limb for the daughter of a gangster.
If Nargis plays a serious teacher in Shri 420, Simi Garewal was her student’s fantasy figure in Mera Naam Joker, and Sushmita Sen was the sexy pallu-flying-in slow-motion version in Main Hoon Na.
It will probably be a while before today’s young actresses to play teachers, maybe when teachers can get glam enough to wear designer clothes.