The ApunKaChoice movie review of Student Of The Year. Switch off reality for a moment and transport yourself into Karan Johar’s fantasy world of St. Teresa High School in Dehradun. It’s a miniverse where rich kids zip by in Ferraris or sports bikes, boys woo girls on prom nights, drop shirts more often than Salman Khan does in a film, and girls are all dolled up in skimpy skirts and hot pants. Like that? Me too.
Moving on, imagine the students singularly dedicated to…well, not studies…but dancing, cavorting, singing, rapping, bumming around in canteen, sweating out in gym, cycling, swimming, treasure-hunting, or, still better, chasing girls or guys. In this colourful and so very alluring setting, weave in a love triangle, between a rich spoilt brat (Varun Dhawan), a middle-class go-getter (Siddharth Malhotra), and a pretty attention-hungry fashionista of a girl (Alia Bhatt).
And now crank up the conflict by throwing in a ‘Student of the Year’ contest where camaraderie and friendships are conveniently shunted for fierce competition. A smattering of ear-candy songs, glossy visuals, dazzling costumes, melodrama, mush, competition, rivalry, and an eventual triumph of love and voila! you have the perfect escapist confection called Student Of The Year. The movie works, but on the conditions that you suspend your disbelief, put up with some phoney characters, and take the juvenile humour in your stride. Not a great ask if you are conditioned to Karan Johar’s brand of cinema.
Student Of The Year is a film that ought to be seen not with seriousness but the flippancy of a teenager. It’s not a film to be nitpicked for subtleties or fine nuances, but a teenage caper to be admired for how it tickles the juvenile fancies of first love, silent crushes and ego clashes. It is set in the same template as Karan Johar’s debut vehicle Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and told through flashbacks that remind you of Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na.
Firing up the film with verve are the three newcomers. Varun Dhawan is the pick of the trio. As a spoilt rich kid who doesn’t get along with his parents, isn’t academically gifted, flirts around with girls and is touchy when spurned, Varun lends credibility to his character. Pitted opposite him, Siddharth Malhotra is a bit uptight, stilted but earnest no less, playing the orphan from a middle-class background, a sporty guy with a competitive streak. The lad also strikes good chemistry with Alia Bhatt, highlighted in a silent scene between the two, a romantic moment during a wedding sequence, set against lilting piano notes. Alia plays Varun’s childhood sweetheart, but can’t help falling in love with Siddharth who harbours a crush on her. It’s a checkered performance by the newbie.
If anything Karan Johar must be commended for the cunning with which he seems to gloss over the weaknesses of his starcast and rather pitch the scenes in such a way as to bring forth what they can do best. However, the filmmaker could have done better with a more imaginative screenplay, witty writing and without a gratuitous ‘treasure hunt’ sequence.
The supporting cast buttresses the film well, be it Rishi Kapoor as a ‘gay’ and happy principal with hots for the macho coach (Ronit Roy), Mansi Rachh as Alia's best friend, Sana Saeed as the hot temptress, or Kayoze Irani as an endearing bloke.
The bratpack makes for an interesting bunch, and the continuous flow of raillery and banter, with all those songs, dances and competition make Student Of The Year a fun watch.