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Review: Student Of The Year

The trouble with ‘Student Of The Year’ is that it doesn’t even feel as if it is trying for novelty,despite the brand-new talent.

Written by Shubhra Gupta
New Delhi | October 19, 2012 5:25:26 pm

Cast: Sidharth Malhotra,Varun Dhawan,Alia Bhatt,Rishi Kapoor,Ram Kapoor,Ronit Roy,Farida Jalal

Director: Karan Johar

Indian Express Rating:**

I have a bone to pick with Karan Johar,who invites us once again,to witness a bunch of young students do their thing. Not because this is yet another impossibly swish ‘school’ which bears little resemblance to the posh-est educational institutions we have in the country : after the seismic shock of that first Riverdale-high-school-clone in ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’,anything was possible. Not because we are asked to believe that these beautifully-toned,manicured,polished,perfectly-attired creatures are ‘students’ in their final year of school: a KJo film will faint at the thought of scruffiness,where even a muddy dab on a sweatshirt after a strenuous game of football appears artfully daubed. And so what if they don’t look as youthful as they ought,as long as they are good-looking,right?

Nope,none of the above. It’s more to do with the fact that the film appears to have to have been cobbled together from several of the director’s own films,and from other poor,underdog student acing super-rich,super-brat progenies of wealthy parents. So when you see ‘sports-scholarship-holder’ Abhimanyu Singh (Malhotra) squaring up to bad-boy Rohan Nanda (Dhawan,David’s son) and the top-to-toe designer-clad Shanaya Singhania (Bhatt,Mahesh’s daughter),you know exactly what you are in for. What you don’t expect is that the in-between stuff will have quite such a seen-it-so-what’s-new quality.

St Teresa’s is the tony,high-nosed school in Dehradun where Abhimanyu,Rohan (cutely called Ro,of course) and Shanaya and their friends are busy preparing to finish school and win the coveted top prize. The ‘student of the year’ concept is the brainchild of the school’s openly gay dean (Rishi) who has the hots of the hearty,buff coach (Roy). This results in several episodes of dean-lusting-after-coach which get old very soon,and everything goes into a loop with best friends learning to cope with competition and winning and losing.

Some parents are also in the picture,notably Rohan’s hard-nosed dad (Ram) who dislikes him intensely for reasons we never really understand,other than his desire to make music rather than money ; and the parent-less Abhimanyu’s nasty ‘chachi’ and loving ‘dadima’ (Jalal). But the main action stays between the threesome and its close friends,a tomboy,a vixen,a ‘chamcha’,a friendly ‘sardar’,and a plump boy with spectacles.

The trouble with ‘Student Of The Year’ is that it doesn’t even feel as if it is trying for novelty,despite the brand-new talent it showcases. Not one of the three main leads fully breaks out of the ‘types’ they are assigned,even if you can see they have been schooled hard for their parts : the swimwear rounds are most impressive,the abs are washboard,the skin glistens,and they are all very glossy to match their environs, but the acting chops are slender. Of the three,Malhotra fares best,and Bhatt wears her clothes well,but none of them have zing. The supporting cast is better : I liked the overweight fellow with the glasses (Kayoze Irani,Boman’s son) who’s given a nice little blow-out scene in the end.

Clearly ‘KKHH’ is the clear and present template,even if the triangle is inverted. Instead of the one boy- two girls of Johar’s debut which had freshness and a distinct charm despite Shah Rukh,Kajol and Rani being well past the age of high-schoolers,‘Student Of The Year’ is a two boy-one girl which treads the same paths with much less agility and skill. You can also see bits of ‘Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na’ and ‘Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar’ and ‘Dil Chahta Hai’. Not even the songs,so much a Johar strength,are distinctive. If this is ‘Ishq wala love’,I ask,where is the ‘film waali film’,the ‘KJo waali’ film? This is all show,so very little tell.

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