Movie Review: STUDENT OF THE YEAR (2012)
Karan Johar, known for his romps in the meadows of family friendly cinema, returns with his brand of cinema in the lavishly grandiose STUDENT OF THE YEAR. Here’s my movie review…
Rating: 3 Out Of 5 Stars Let’s get straight to it. STUDENT OF THE YEAR is quite possibly India’s first ever bromance. You heard me. The story features a trio of young actors in lead roles, and was marketed like a love triangle. However ultimately the story ends up focusing more on the relationship of the two male leads over anything else.
Varun Dhawan’s Rohan is a rich dad’s son, constantly rejected by his family due to his aspiration of becoming a musician instead of following in the family business. Siddharth Malhotra’s Abhimanyu is an orphaned middle class boy who’s come to the private high-class college with ambitions of unparalleled success and riches. Being two alpha males, after a minor confrontation, both Rohan and Abhimanyu become best of friends.
However, once the school’s sexually ‘fancy’ Dean, played by Rishi Kapoor introduces the rules of the annual Student of The Year competition, their friendship unravels and their insecurities come to light, threatening to destroy the best friends.
What I liked about STUDENT OF THE YEAR, is that despite a very brief love triangle angle, that aspect of the story only served as a catalyst to create a rift between the friends. It wasn’t the crux of the story. Their friendship wasn’t hinged on ever lasting love and it was never about who ended up with whom. Sure, as a regular Bollywood audience, we tend to nudge every Indian film towards that sort of category. However, this film’s story focused more on the growth of Rohan & Abhi, and bringing closure to their individual stories, as set up throughout the course of the movie.
Siddharth Malhotra is top notch in his debut. Despite being conventionally good-looking, hot, etc.… Malhotra has a baritone voice that betrays his boyish looks and adds much needed gravitas to his performance. However, he suffers from slight Keanu Reeves Syndrome of sporting the same squinty eyes expression in most of his scenes.
Varun Dhawan, being the son of legendary comic director David Dhawan, has definitely learned more chops in the acting field than his co-star. Playing the spoiled rich brat immediately put Rohan at a disadvantage to Abhi’s humble roots, at least from an empathic point of view, however, the writing coupled with Dhawan’s execution of the character immediately makes him the more sympathetic one, not despite his laid back personality, but because of it.
Ali Bhatt was adequate in her debut of a valley girl who’s ignored by her parents, so has to make up for it by buying things and being with a boyfriend who doesn’t give her the time of day. Truth be told, despite her inclusion, the film didn’t give her much to do. Unlike Johar’s first film, the significance of the three characters in STUDENT OF THE YEAR wasn’t even, as Bhatt’s character had nothing to do but fill the girl quotient of the film.
STUDENT OF THE YEAR also breaks a lot of clichés set up with stories of this nature in Bollywood, and refreshingly so. It addresses its own plot holes and maneuvers around them with brilliance. The characters, dialogue and scenes are set up realistically to the urban youth of today, without over the top dramatics. Karan Johar has definitely grown since his other films as there is not one moment of eye roll worthy trite in STUDENT OF THE YEAR.
Some things I really thought were going against the grain of formulaic Bollywood cinema:
- The clichés of best friends from different classes was avoided. The rich kid with ignorant parents wasn’t taken in by the poor kid’s loving family to fill that hole, and the rich kid didn’t have to pay for the poor kid. Their friendship was devoid of those formulas.
- The rich kid being an arrogant asshole cliché was avoided. Rohan’s characterization set him up to be the one who was more sympathetic, always being put down by his own father, being confused in his relationship and career and being more laid back.
- The poor kid being humble and soft-spoken was another cliché avoided. Despite being set up as the orphan poor boy, Abhi’s character was more brash, outspoken and almost more arrogant than Rohan, essentially a dick.
- The love triangle didn’t make up the story, nor did the story focus around it. The 2 boys’ friendship were based on, and eventually unraveled for reasons other than the love triangle.
- The move addresses its own plot holes. The annual Student of the Year competition features a dance & Triathlon competition to determine the winner. The stupidity of which was called out by a character in the movie. Also the unfairness of having women compete with men in a physical event such as a triathlon was also addressed.
- The predominantly gay characters, mostly there for comic relief, were addressed as being so and there was even a comment by one of the gay characters that pulled that depiction into the limelight.
One thing I didn’t appreciate about STUDENT OF THE YEAR, was the narrative tactic employed by the story. The story starts with a ’10 years later’ cue and having the supporting cast convene to tell the story through direct narration to the audience and flashback sequences of 10 years before. It was unnecessary and made the twist in the end seem a lot less dramatic than they made it seem.
Over all, STUDENT OF THE YEAR was enjoyable and very entertaining. Beyond some overly dramatic story telling tactics that could have been avoided, the story itself was innovative and steered clear of the typical Bollywood formulas that we’re all accustomed to.