(Published in The Sunday Guardian, on 21 October 2012, retrieved from http://www.sunday-guardian.com/a/15417)
Cast: Siddharth Malhotra, Alia Bhatt, Varun Dhawan, Rishi Kapoor
Director: Karan Johar
Rating: 1 star
Student of the Year is one of those films – it’s told in flashback, it involves a reunion, it unfolds over three hours, and it’s narrated by earnest hammers looking into the camera and making us wish someone had forgotten to load the roll (or chip). There were about four times in the last hour that I looked towards the houselights, willing them to come on.
So, we go into a British-style boarding school, headed by Yogi (Rishi Kapoor), whose sole duty appears to be hitting on every man legally entitled to consensual sex. Little wonder, then, that his students spend their time drinking, smoking, stripping, and in all likelihood, committing statutory rape on each other. But since the most hilarious thing in Bollywood is a man who inhabits Pinkville, I suppose Karan Johar assumes we won’t notice.
We switch from the present to graduation, 10 years ago, trying to find out what warranted the dramatic music, melancholy headmaster and slow-motion photo finish that introduced the film. I assume the present is 2022, since the graduation seems to be in 2012, and Gucci, Da Milano, Versace have entered Dehra Dun, where all cinematic residential schools are.
There’s very little to the movie that isn’t part of a song sequence. Worse, everything is narrated by the hangers on, who are School-Slut-Turned-Divorcee, School-Tomboy-Turned-
Housewife, School-Fatboy-Who-Remains- Fatboy, and School-Chamcha-Who-Now-Shaves.
Now, it turns out all kids in residential schools have miserable home lives, whether they’re Tata (SOTY for “rich”) or Bata (SOTY for “poor”). So, it makes sense that their school year plays out like a reality show. Enter the nautch boys, Rich Rohan (Varun Dhawan) and Intense Abhimanyu (Siddharth Malhotra). Enter Hot Chick (Alia Bhatt), who’s dating Rich Rohan. The song sequences and about half the random footage that makes up the rest of the film have the camera focusing on their collective curves.
So, what does the title mean? Apparently, ‘Student of the Year’ is an award, and the path to the award involves proving your might in the school’s three pillars – Art, Academics, Athletics, and Alliteration. Nah, nobody cares about math as long as you’re pretty. And prettiest of all is Abhimanyu, who looks like he could be the lovechild of Dino Morea and Shahid Kapur. He stares at the camera soulfully every time the pace drops, which is rather often. Everyone else stares soulfully at him. And that’s more than you need to know.
The Verdict: If the film had been half as long, it may just have been watchable.