Saturday, October 20, 2012


Release date:
October 19, 2012
Karan Johar
Sidharth Malhotra, Alia Bhatt, Varun Dhawan, Rishi Kapoor, Ram Kapoor, Ronit Roy, Kayoze Irani

The greatest compliment that can be paid to Karan Johar’s Student of the Year (SOTY) is that it manages to entertain despite being so superficial. SOTY lacks originality and depth, but it’s not a bad deal if you don’t mind a film that’s unmemorable-yet-fun with intermittent laughs, a couple of teardrops here and there, and an unrelenting eye-full of pretty visuals.

KJo’s latest film introduces us to three well-packaged kids: Sidharth Malhotra, Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan are good looking and well dressed with bodies that have clearly gone through the grind in the gym. As if that is not enough, she wears the teensiest of outfits displaying acres of bosom throughout and the boys obligingly take off their shirts at regular intervals. No complaints there … if you see Sid Malhotra’s abs you would not complain either! But some of it doesn’t make sense. SOTY’s St Teresa’s High School, Dehra Dun, seems to suggest that there’s nothing uncommon about a moneyed Indian school that’s a clone of schools we see in American films: where heavily made up female students sport glaringly bright lipstick and killer stillettoes without ever being pulled up by teachers; where kids are occasionally in uniform but mostly in designerwear; where a girl’s popularity is measured by her success as a cheerleader; and then, to seal the school’s hip status perhaps, they have a prom. Apparently this is all so common in India that it does not merit a comment. Sadly, this shallow school is being projected as an embodiment of cool. Equally sadly, a voiceover describes the name of the school as an angrez name. I guess there’s no point in telling prejudiced Bollywood for the millionth time that a Christian name is not an angrez name. Oh well … forget it!

Be that as it may, the story revolves around two boys: the middle-class student Abhimanyu Singh (Malhotra) has got into St Teresa’s on a sports scholarship, and Rohan Nanda (Dhawan) is the rich boy with the harsh daddy (Ram Kapoor). Also in the picture is Rohan’s girlfriend Shanaya Singhania (Bhatt), a gay principal (Rishi Kapoor) who lusts after the sports coach (Ronit Roy) and a Student of the Year trophy that has the potential to tear the kids apart. Will relationships survive the competition? Will friendships turn to romantic love?

The problems begin with the clichés that unfold right at the start of SOTY. Too many students are a certain “type” of person that we’ve seen in a zillion films before: the spoilt rich boy “type” who hates his father, the bitch “type” who wants to get her claws into him, the heartless wealthy patriarch “type”, the-fat-boy-who-is-not-hot-enough-to-get-a-date “type”. To this mix is added Bollywood’s newly emerging favourite “type”: the OTT effeminate gay guy “type”.

Teen flicks are not an oft-visited genre in Hindi cinema. Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar in 1992 and Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na in 2008 worked in different ways because they featured characters who felt like real people, and neither film was trying too hard to be cool. YRF’s much-less-talked-about Mujhse Fraaandship Karoge last year was a smooth ride because of some solid writing. Student of the Year does not make the grade on these fronts.

It does work on other fronts though: It’s breezy almost throughout. The sporting contests are well executed. The soundtrack is filled with catchy numbers including remixes of many old hits, the highlight being Disco deewane. The choreography is energetic. In spite of the superficiality all around, there is a tug at the heart when you witness Abhimanyu’s love for his feisty grandmother played by the luminous Farida Jalal. But my favourite elements in the film are the manner in which Rohan’s uneasy relationship with his father turns out and what finally happens to the friendship between the two boys.

The three youngsters may not have the charisma of the SRK-Kajol-Rani trio in KJo’s debut film Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, but there’s no doubt they could be moulded into something special. Malhotra is the natural hunk of the lot with the most striking presence. Dhawan seems strongest in the acting department but would do himself a favour by bulking up his torso a little less in the gym to get a body that’s better suited to the sweet face. And Bhatt needs to pick a role that gives her a chance to be more than just a cute mannequin. Kayoze Irani as their overweight friend makes a mark with a rather nicely written speech he delivers towards the end where subtlety and sensitivity unexpectedly creep into the picture. My pick of the cast though is Ram Kapoor who could bring acting depth even to a puddle.

Depth … now if only Student of the Year had more of that. No aspect of the film seems fully explored. Nothing in the story feels particularly new. And the excess of gloss overwhelms everything else in what could otherwise have been a neat boy-bonding film. Still, it’s entertaining in a doggedly don’t-take-me-seriously sort of way. As long as you’re warned, that’s not such a bad thing.

Rating (out of five): **9/10

CBFC Rating (India):
Running time:
150 minutes




  1. Very well written review of a trash movie.
    If it wasn’t a Karan Johar movie, people would not have bothered to even watch it. And reviewers would have given not more than 2 stars. Surprising to see seasoned reviewers trying desperately not to displease Karan Johar. But tell me something, to produce such a crap why do we need an experienced director? And what freshness are you talking about? It’s all old, stale and seen before stuff. No humor and nothing innovative. Starts like 3 idiots – re-union after 10 years. Campus is like Kuch kuch hota hai. Dean is like the one is Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (Don’t know what is the compulsion to always make a cartoon out of a dean?) So much from Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar. And Kajol dancing yet again… give me a break Karan…. These surprise entries in every movie have become a norm now. There is Dostana. Then there is Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham…Poo & Alia. There is absolutely no freshness. Do not confuse extravagance with fine movie making. The first half narration gets on to your nerves. The most annoying movie of the year…may not be pathetic but a remix of cliche.

    1. Dear Rajeev,

      I'm confused about who your comments are directed at - me or other reviewers? Because far from calling this film "fresh" (to quote you), I've described it as unoriginal and superficial.

      Rgds, Anna

  2. A karan johar direction , so you never ever except a good story from him , but work of camera is nice , but you have to tolerate the the ultimate stupidity of the movie .Please karan johar , you don't do direction , be a producer you are good as director you are worst .

  3. how would u describe sidharth's performance???? bcoz u haven't written much on it

    1. Dear Sujan,

      Sidharth's acting wasn't bad but it didn't take my breath away either. It almost feels unfair though to judge an actor from a film like this because it's hard to tell whether it's the superficiality of the material at hand or his own limitations that are showing up on screen. Like I said in my review, what's clear is that he's got potential and he's good looking.

      Hope I've answered your question. Regards, Anna

  4. Spot on..!! So many of our critics out there say how they are fans of Roger Ebert and yet none of them seems to realize his virtues.Now,love or hate Roger ,you are the only Bollywood Critic I came across that is more like him, in that, you never write like you are the end n all of films.You always write what you felt like after watching a movie rather than judging viewers and categorising them to "elite" and "rickshawalas" which I find ridiculous.And you also know how to write a full page review without giving away the plot "points" which is an un"sahikkable" flaw in almost all of our critics.And u never go by brand names.This is why even when I dont agree with some of your reviews I could still relate with your reasons and move on with a :fairenough: smile...
    Final Praise n my favorite:You dont have those pre saved words n phrases and the robotic tone that makes a review so plastic and heartless (The main problem with RajeevMasand n Anupama) Instead you say it as it comes.
    I said all this because I was frustrated for so long with our critics and their
    "takeit-or-takeit" attitude..

    Way to go Anna ... :-)

    Now 4 my satisafaction:I felt Sidharth was sort of bad in "this" film.Especially in that hospital scene where he was attempting to make a sad face to get Shanaya's sympathy and that shot before the kiss where he was trying to look passionate touching her face n all instead end up looking too awkward .. Learn a thing or 2 about looking in your girls eyes n acting without losing charm from your producer Mr.SRK, Sid.. n you might be good to go...