Shiksha Mandal will go down in history as that piece of social commentary that came close to making it to the finish line, but chickened out at the last moment: almost well-researched, almost rebellious, almost recommendable
Pallabi Dey Purkayastha
Last Updated: 02.39 AM, Sep 15, 2022
STORY: Intelligent students, labelled as 'Rajus' amongst scammers from the education world, are cherry-picked from every nook and cranny of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Their task is to attempt (as proxies) the highly competitive medical entrance exams for 'dumb, stupid kids'. This is what forms the basic crux of the story, rest of it is a noble yet often haphazard attempt at unmasking the elaborate fraud behind this nation's rather shameful education mafia. Laud the effort, pity its execution.
REVIEW: Keeping conventional Bollywood storytelling in mind, writer-director Syed Ahmad Afzal's Rahul Somani has all the makings of a rich-kid-gone-rogue: dons expensive clothes, flaunts his wealth and goes to parties where lines are not written out on whiteboards but snorted down one's nostrils instead. But, to everyone's surprise, he 'has never done nasha', he exclaims, and meets a rather tragic end over the contents of a pendrive.
In a not-so-distant world, an ill-tempered Aditya Rai (Gulshan Devaiah) is fuming since his sister not only skipped her entrance exams, but also had consensual sex with a teenage boy at Sharda Lodge, and is now being blackmailed for her 'nefarious' lifestyle. (Sounds way too familiar? Yes, we thought so).
You know its anarchy-in-progress when the lines between hooliganism and politics are blurred in a democratic state, and Shiksha Mandal doesn't flinch before calling estabalishments out—give credit where its due—to the point that you almost appreciate the newfound liberty of OTT platforms. 'Almost' being the keyword here.
Shiksha Mandal will go down in history as that piece of social commentary that came close to making it to the finish line, but chickened out at the last moment: almost well-researched, almost rebellious, almost recommendable. It is not the big moments that make the small flaws stick out, it is the small oversights that make the series borderline insufferable.
Shiksha Mandal, other than the noble and extremely alarming real-life lesson it tries to impart, has a handful of talented actors that keep the momentum going. Devaiah, for one, has rendered a class act as an angsty man hellbent on realising his own dreams through the younger lot, Khan, too, is in her element as a tough cop. After a plethora of glam roles, this Gauahar is such a welcome change. Pawan Malhotra, as Dhansu Yadav, is a hillybilly you would love to hate. Other actors, who bounce between scenes and sequences, are hits and misses.
In short, Shiksha Mandal preaches the viewers that the real value of education is beyond the grades you score and the colleges you get into; but it fails to, simply, educate.
VERDICT: Everything said and done, the nine-part series has an insightful story to share. One must watch it strictly to understand the education mafia prevalent in certain parts of the country, and how this highly organised criminal-activity is carried out with aid from the highest of the highest.