Directed by: Karan Johar
Starring: Varun Dhawan, Siddhart Malhotra, Alia Bhatt, Rishi Kapoor, Sana Saeed
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing
It is unashamedly obvious that in his latest venture Karan Johar tried to woo the younger generations of viewers more than anyone. Those who were just babies or maybe not even born at that point of time when his Kuch Kuch Hota Hai was creating waves, and thus escaped his „clutches“. Student of the Year pretty much abandons more mature audience and tries to capture the sympathies of the teens much like KKHH did about 15 years ago. However unlike his original audience Karan Johar did not mature as a filmmaker, and delivered yet another deeply average watch.
Interestingly enough told the same way as Barfi, SOTY mostly happens as a one huge flashback of several people coming together after years. And so from a hospital where an old dean is lying in a critical condition, we are thrown into a bursting-with-awesomeness colourful memory of school years spent studying at a super-elite and super-modern college where the most popular boy is the son of a local MP (Varun) and most popular girl (Alia) only wears Prada and Gucci etc. They are boyfriend/girlfriend of course, but she is rather upset with him because he seems not to be able to keep his hands off other scantily clad girls, calling it „being with friends“. The extremely boring plot then follows with „original“ twist – Shanaya (Alia) starts flirting with a new friend (and new most popular guy at school), the even cooler and more awesome and more perfect and accomplished Abhi (Siddhart), to make her boyfriend feel jealous. It works, but oh my, Abhi falls in love with her in the process as well. And if that is not enough for two friends to have problems, they find themselves thrown into a competition for the title of „Student of the Year“...
The story is such that it could have worked - if the three leads had a connection on screen, chemistry if you will, and sadly the three perfectly perfect best friends do not have that. I did not feel any connection in between them, which made it all rather pointless. Not only I did not buy the boys being in love with the girl, but at no point was I ever convinced about their friendship either. That no development of these essential relationships is shown does´t help. To give the movie some credit, it eventually does get some grip in the last hour – it´s just a pity that things that lead to it are so chaotic and yawn-worthy. The ending is not really predictable, and the outburst of one of the students near the end was a good one – it addressed some things even I myself questioned about the Student of the Year competition as a whole.
The debutants do reasonably well, although only Varun Dhawan really impresses in a several scenes (especially his confrontation with father is brilliant). All three somehow lack an on-screen presence, which becomes all too apparent the moment Kajol appears for a few seconds, making her already traditional blink and miss cameo for her Johar friend. Alia (looking 14, and that even in the „10 years later“ segment) is somehow lost in between her lovers and often has nothing to do but to look pretty in designer clothes and showing off more of her legs than may be necessary (though curiously there are more of half-nude males than females in this). The characters of Shanaya and Abhi seem shallow because their background is not well explored. We are given few hints, and that´s it. Unfair towards them and us.
Rishi Kapoor charms and entertains – as long as you´re willing to accept yet another highly stereotypical presentation of gay men. Stereotypical are also many other characters: that pretty girl who thinks too much about herself and has nothing in her head really, the main heroine´s best friend who is not allowed to be girly and pretty but needs to be treated like a tomboy, Rohan´s „chamcha“, who does everything he wants but then turns against him the moment he has a chance, even a fat nerd boy makes an appearance. There is hardly any thought put into the side characters, and considering how many are there, it´s rather sad, as opportunities not taken always are.
There were some things that made me go slightly (and more) WTF, the biggest one being Rohan´s father taking his younger son´s classmates and God knows who else to Thailand to attend a wedding of his other son. Not at all smooth an excuse for shooting at foreign location. Few more of many problems I had: I have to admit I kept confusing Varun and Siddhart in other than close up shots. Still do, but yeah, this is not anyone´s fault. However, considering none of the students had any relationship with the dean whatsoever.... why did they even care about him that much to leave everything and come to his deathbed – especially some of them? Also – why does Shanaya end up with Abhi? Last thing we are shown is that she „is done“ with both the guys. Ten years later she is Abhi´s wife. Well... how about showing how that happened, since she was the main female lead? I must give Karan a credit for shaking off at least one of the prejudices of mine by not leaning on a big bankable star and taking the newcomers instead. SOTY though is a silly walla film that probably wouldn´t get half as noticed had it been made by a less prolific director.