Student Of The Year is a big film starring newcomers – a first for producer-director Karan Johar who up till now, only worked with the country’s biggest stars, namely Shah Rukh Khan. The introductions of the lead players – Rohan Nanda (Varun Dhawan), Shanaya Singhania (Alia Bhatt) and Abhimanyu Singh (Siddharth Malhotra) are done interestingly.
Vintage songs set to contemporary sounds characterise the lead players as rich kid, fashion Barbie and poor guy on campus, the campus being that of the elite Indian boarding school, Saint Teresa’s. It is an elite school, where the super rich educate their kids, but with a sprinkling of the desi guys too – Tata bachche and Bata bachche as described in the film. The classrooms are hip and the grounds well manicured, just like they should be in a Karan Johar film, never mind if they don’t exist anywhere else in the world. It’s all about watching Karan’s make-believe world.
So, Rohan and Shanaya are dating and Tanya Israni (Sana Saeed) who dresses like the proverbial “hot chick on campus” but isn’t really, is the third wheel here. It’s weird to see Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’s cute little Anjali all grown up in the film, discussing bikni waxes and push up bras with her mother and making bedroom eyes at Rohan. Then there’s a really funny character called Jeet who has some fantastic lines in the film, an earnest Parsi guy called Pseudo and a jolly Sardar. Enter new boy Abhimanyu in the motley group and the campus drama begins. You guessed it – it’s about the annual Student of the Year trophy!
Fun and mind games, love, lots of good songs picturised fabulously making each character look amazing, witty lines and a steady pace make up for the rest of the film which culminates in a winning way, naturally. Some lines like “Teri jodi rab ne nahi, ameeron ke club ne banai hai”, “Shanaya apni ma ki iklauti aur step dad ki paanchvi beti hai” are just hilarious! The music of the film is a good confluence of Western and Indian attributes – the Radha song embodies that well, as does Disco Deewane.
The film looks good but even though you aren’t entirely bored, you tend to drift away. It’s a light and breezy film, but the progression of the plot is rather arduous and stretched into a Triathlon and love triangles and what not, when it could have come to a conclusion earlier. And it does not have a very original plot line either, give or take a few elements.
The good thing about the film is that Karan has turned three regular people into absolute stars on celluloid. Alia, Varun and Siddharth are extremely appealing visually and make for striking screen presence in the film throughout. All three have set out to conquer the world of celluloid and with SOTY as their launch film, it does not get any better. But I am guessing they will probably not look as good on screen as they did in SOTY given Karan’s extremely meticulous about his actor’s appearances. Actually, they could, if they work with Karan again!
To describe Siddharth in the words of Dr. Meredith Grey from the hit television series, Grey’s Anatomy, I’d say he’s McDreamy, maybe even McSteamy, or both. He is stunning in every frame and I think his ab-fab shots in the Thailand wedding bits of the film make John Abraham’s Dostana derriere look tepid! Siddharth is not as fluid in the song and dance routines, of which there are many, like Varun and Alia who are perfectly at ease doing so. He looks good, but the same can’t be said about his rather awkward acting.
Alia is effortless and a natural in her performance – bouncy and effervescent and quite adorable as the ditzy Shanaya. The camera loves her gamine face and inherent charm. Being veteran filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt’s daughter, she sure knows where she’s headed from here.
Varun walks and talks the part of Richie Rich Rohan – he’s got the act down pat and does a super job essaying it. Varun is the younger son of filmmaker David Dhawan and he too, has a film legacy to live up to. So far, so good.
But the best performance in the film is that of Rishi Kapoor playing Dean Vashisht who is gay. He is simply marvelous and absolutely delightful – no over the top walk, frightful mannerisms or crazy colours – just a subtle hint of his sexual preference through his extraordinary performance. Do notice the changing bejewelled pin on his lapel – from the diamond encrusted butterfly pin which is a favourite and oft repeated, to the Koala bear. Sushma Seth plays his mother, yet again!
Kajol makes her “lucky mascot” appearance in the film and owns it!
Karan has given Bollywood three brand new stars with this film, minted in his very own Dharma Productions. But as a filmmaker, Student Of The Year is not his finest work. Sure, it’s got all the elements of finesse and expansive production values that his films are known for, but he has also been very pivotal in directing and producing films with engaging stories in the past. On the creative front, SOTY does not raise the bar. He’s definitely not the director of the year as far as Student Of The Year is concerned.