On July 12, Hrithik Roshan will return as yet another one of cinema’s noble teachers. In Vikas Bahl’s Super 30, Roshan plays the real-life mathematician and educationist Anand Kumar, who coached underprivileged students to ace the IIT-JEE entrance examinations. Kumar’s story is that of a man of poor means disrupting the coaching culture business that favours students from middle-class and privileged backgrounds.
Kumar’s renegade ways have shades of movie teachers who push students to imagine and learn beyond their limits, such as Pramod Sharma (Vinod Khanna) of Imtihan (1974) and John Keating (Robin Williams) of Dead Poet’s Society. However, the movies have their share of bad teachers too. Take Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop (1990).
The buff star plays a detective who goes undercover at a kindergarten to find a child whose father is a drug lord. Schwarzenegger’s bulk and gruff looks are played for laughs. His character, John Kimble, finds it difficult to engage with children. Kimble makes a fool of himself in the beginning, but later figures a way to discipline the children by introducing rather gnarly methods imported from police training schools.
Another teacher who is the last thing you would expect in a classroom is failed rock star Dewey Finn (Jack Black) from School Of Rock (2003). Finn takes up the job of a substitute teacher to earn some easy money. His initial days are a disaster, but he redeems himself by organising his musically inclined students into a rock band and getting them ready for a competition.
In Indian films, imperfect teachers provide sideshow comedy within the larger plot. Two memorable bad teachers in one film are Mr Malhotra (Anupam Kher) and Miss Braganza (Archana Puran Singh) in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998). Malhotra plays the stereotyped principal who isn’t taken seriously by anyone (Think of the characters played by Kader Khan in Andaz or Boman Irani in Main Hoon Na). Meanwhile, Miss Braganza is obsessed with short skirts and romance.
A more recent example that’s one for the ages is the unnamed English teacher (V Khan) in the 2010 satire Phas Gaye Re Obama. The teacher runs an English-speaking coaching centre in a small town in Uttar Pradesh. In one meme-friendly scene, the teacher chastises his students for speaking in class. Among the gems he spurts confidently: “English speaking not a children play... English speaking like a Undertaker play. Taj Mahal create”.
The most iconic bad teacher is in a film called Bad Teacher (2011), starring Cameron Diaz. Elizabeth Halsey’s crimes against humanity include encouraging her students to cheat on a test and get high scores so that she can collect the bonus fee and fund her breast implants. Also, taking a class after abusing drugs and poisoning a fellow teacher to have her way with her boyfriend. By the end, of course, this bad teacher becomes a good teacher.