Tuesday, May 14, 2019


Release date:
May 10, 2019
Punit Malhotra

Tiger Shroff, Tara Sutaria, Ananya Panday, Aditya Seal, Abhishek Bajaj, Samir Soni, Manoj Pahwa, Gul Panag, Guest appearances: Will Smith and Alia Bhatt

Can a leading man’s nice-guy demeanour hold up an entire film? The answer is to be found in the new Tiger Shroff-starrer in town. Shroff has a likeable quality about him, but his facial muscles remain more or less stationary throughout Student of the Year 2, which I suppose could be deemed appropriate considering that the plot itself has not moved since Sidharth Malhotra and Varun Dhawan battled it out over a trophy and Alia Bhatt in Student of the Year (SOTY) in 2012.

That film was directed by Karan Johar, and whatever its failings may have been – the foremost being that it sinfully underutilised Bhatt’s acting talent and reduced her to a Barbie – at least it had her cuteness, Malhotra’s hotness, Dhawan’s fledgling acting skills, the trio’s undeniable charisma and a superficial fun factor going for it. The sequel, produced by Johar and directed by Punit Malhotra (I Hate Love Storys), pretends to be about two girls and a boy but it doesn't really care about the girls, and the boy, well, he is played by Shroff who cannot act to save his life or a film.

SOTY is centred around the very very middle class Rohan Sachdev (Shroff), star athlete of the low-brow Pishorilal Chamandas College, and his rivalry with the very very wealthy Manav Singh Randhawa (Aditya Seal) of the snooty Saint Teresa College not far away. When Rohan beats Manav unexpectedly in a track event, the stage is set for a clash in their personal and student lives culminating in the annual Dignity Cup tournament between the colleges of Dehradun and Mussoorie that will also decide the winner of the Student of the Year trophy.

You know women mean even less to SOTY 2 than they did to SOTY 1 when the bad guy promises the good guy that at the end of the contest he will have the trophy on one arm and the latter’s girlfriend on the other, and his attitude echoes the attitude of the film itself, which treats their female collegemates as prizes to be won and lost, nothing more. The irrelevance of the women is further underlined by the fact that Student of the Year is a battle between eight colleges, of which we know at least two to be co-ed, yet the competitions shown are all for boys alone. The girls are not even in contention.

To analyse SOTY 2 primarily on the basis of its gender apathy would be to take it too seriously though. What it ought to be judged on are its blandness, triteness and poor casting. Cliché is piled on cliché in this unoriginal screenplay. 

The rich as the evil ones – check.

The middle class as guileless, largely good and at worst, misled by the rich – check.

Loneliness in an upper-class family contrasted with warmth in middle-class family and community life – check.

Glamorous, perfectly made up girls in tiny clothes – check.

Enviably slim female waistlines and legs perennially on display – check.

Boys with muscular, perfectly sculpted bodies – check.

Male biceps and abs perennially on display – check.

Boys who obligingly take off their shirts for our benefit – check.

Boys and girls who look doll-like in their physical flawlessness – check.

Soul – none .

Tara Sutaria who plays Rohan’s girlfriend Mridula has a lukewarm personality, but Ananya Panday, who is cast as mean girl Shreya, has an X factor that pushes its way past the layers of gloss in SOTY2. Both characters are initially positioned as significant but are in fact marginal to the proceedings. The graceful and striking Ms Panday (actor Chunky Pandey’s daughter) deserves more.

Aditya Seal acts better than Shroff but has a somewhat dull screen presence, which made me wonder why his role was not given instead to TV actor Abhishek Bajaj making his film debut here as Rohan’s kabaddi teammate. In a tiny part, Bajaj makes a far greater impression than Seal does as the second lead.

Even the choreography does not throw up anything extraordinarily original. The usually cheery Vishal-Shekhar too roll out a generic soundtrack that does not do much even for the remix of a lovely old Hindi film song in an early dance-off.

There are certain plot elements in SOTY 2 that could perhaps have borne fruit if they had been explored by a better writer, such as the starting point of the story which is about a boy making his girlfriend’s dreams his dreams and having none of his own. This is a reversal of what we see in real-life man-woman relationships, and who knows where it could have been taken. Here though, the screenplay by Arshad Syed is so preoccupied with foregrounding the men that the point wanders away before being referenced once again briefly in the middle and the end, thus adding up to not very much. 

Class struggles among the youth in educational institutions have great potential, as we know from Mansoor Khan’s memorable Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar in the early 1990s. SOTY 1 chose to spend more time on its characters’ bodies, make-up and wardrobes, its soundtrack and dance routines than on its writing, but proved to be entertaining in its own limited fashion. SOTY 2 seems not to even try.

This lack of passion is mirrored by Hollywood superstar Will Smith who dances unenthusiastically for a few seconds on stage in this film in what must rank as the worst conceptualised, worst shot superstar guest appearance in Bollywood in recent memory. Smith’s scene competes with Sutaria’s insipidity, Shroff’s acting and numerous plot clichés to be the answer to the question: what’s the worst part of Student of the Year 2?

Rating (out of five stars): *1/2

CBFC Rating (India):
Running time:
146 minutes

This review has also been published on Firstpost:

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