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Rough Book review: This class is worth attending once

Release Date: 24 Jun 2016 / 01hr 40min

Keyur Seta

Tannishtha Chatterjee carries the film on her able shoulders.

Film: Rough Book (U)
Director: Ananth Narayan Mahadevan
Producer: Aerika Cineworks
Writers: Sanjay Chouhan and Ananth Narayan Mahadevan
Cast: Tannishtha Chatterjee, Kaizaad Kotwal, Vinay Jain, Amaan Khan, Joy Sengupta
Genre: Drama
Runtime: 100 minutes
Rating: 2.5/5

As director, Ananth Narayan Mahadevan has excelled while exploring serious topics. The evidence lies in films like Red Alert: The War Within (2009), Mee Sindhutai Sapkal (Marathi, 2010), Staying Alive (2012) and Gour Hari Dastaan (2015). Ananth continues in a similar vein with Rough Book. However, this effort does not match up to his previous ones. Still, there are enough reasons to attend this class once.

Rough Book revolves around an idealistic physics professor Santoshi Kumari (Chatterjee). Her ideals and values compel her to separate from her husband (Jain). She leaves his house and gets a job at a posh college in North India. Little does she know that her troubles have just begun. 

Santoshi is given the responsibility of teaching ‘D’ division, which consists of the lowest rankers. Her students make life miserable for her on the first day. As if this weren’t enough, she realizes that the dean runs the college in a shoddy, business-like manner. Will Santoshi be able to hold her ground? Will her high moral values see her through? 

The film has noble intentions. It reminds us of the real meaning of education and takes a stand against its commercialization by colleges and coaching classes. And it does succeed in giving this message. The relationship of the professor with her students and her subsequent success in winning them over is the biggest strong point here. Perfect characterizations of Santoshi, her students and the dean help the cause. 

Unfortunately, the film fails to rise to its true potential. This has largely to do with the narration and presentation of three important turns in the story which aren’t convincing enough (and which I am afraid I can't elaborate on without spoilers). There is also a lack of winning moments, which is so important in stories about underdogs. Therefore, you leave the hall without as much satisfaction as you would have expected from such a content-orientated film.

The technical aspects of the film are in keeping with the simple nature of the story. Cinematographer Maneesh Chandra Bhatt makes his presence felt in the simplest of sequences and also while capturing some beautiful locales. The lack of a loud background score is also a smart move. 

Tannishtha Chatterjee plays a large role in keeping the film going. Her acting prowess is on full display as her character Santoshi goes through a range of emotions. She also succeeds in the difficult task of speaking through expressions. Kaizaad Kotwal as the dean is perfectly cast. He is fully convincing. 

In the role of the notorious student, Amaan Khan is likeable. The only problem is that he looks much older than his character. Ram Kapoor leaves behind an impact despite playing just a cameo. His confrontational scene with the dean is memorable. The main cast is well supported by Vinay Jain, Joy Sengupta, Jayati Bhatia and Deepika Amin. 

On the whole, Rough Book is a one-time watch for those interested in issue-based films. But due to the large number of films releasing alongside coupled with hardly any promotion, this film does not stand a chance at the box office.