A movie like Student of the Year takes Karan Johar back to his roots. Johar started off with a college campus love story ('Kuch Kuch Hota Hai') that won him – and the film – a host of awards for the year. Now, with a host of successful experimentations already in his repertoire, this is the second film that – everyone should know – he's come back to make solely for the intent of fun.
All of this; 14 years since his debut.
Does the debut venture creep in as dj vu for this one? Is this going to be Johar's first damp squib as a director? Will it make waves with the youth like 'Kuch Kuch Hota Hai' did at the time? Or will it be a mere shadow of it?
Set in Dehradun in the fictional, fancy St. Teresa's High School, 'Student of the Year' speaks of life and times in school and how the Student of the Year competition changes the lives of the school's dean, as it does the gang consisting of foes-turned-friends-turned foes Abhimanyu Singh and Rohan Nanda, each of whom share personal problems.
Karan Johar might have decidedly taken a break from fluffy cinema when he decided to make 'Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna', a movie that tackled dysfunctional relationships in Johar's own warm, fuzzy trademark style. He then went ahead to make an issue-based romance that also was a pretty commendable effort. This film though looks not like Johar returning to his roots, but regressing into redundancy. While the narrative is novel and has the Dharma stamp all over it, the problem with the film lies in its flimsy story. Sure, there will be a section of the audience debating over whether or not we should be focused over the story. Hovewer, after making two daring attempts at cinema, for a director to come back like this, doesn't seem any good.
There is a whole list of scenes though, a dozen minutes pre-intermission, and for most of the post-intermission runtime that have an impact. The penultimate climactic showdown between student and Dean has been well written and well executed. The romance has been captured the way a romance should be; there's a fire-crackling chemistry and intensity between the leads that's been realized and exploited well by Johar. Also, interestingly, there's a very good set of songs that have been well shot, amazingly choreographed, and well-plated out. The problem with the writing though lies in the fact that the students never seem to study. Instead they hang around in clubs, booze and dance around for most of the first half.
Speaking of which, let's move toward technicalities. The movie has solid camerawork, and the cinematography just takes your breath away. The edit is nice and easy, and not choppy. The background score is terrific, and works a lot at enhancing even the mundane scenes. The styling is too chic for the protagonists, who are supposed to be studying in school, not college. The music is chartbuster material, and duo Vishal and Shekhar have nailed it with their compositions. 'Ishq Waala Love' is the most deliciously shot and executed song of them all.
Performance wise, Varun Dhawan and Siddharth Malhotra both show a lot of promise. Alia Bhatt brings vintage Pooja Bhatt back, though she needs to work on her Hindi if she has to stay. However, she's got the confidence enough to charm through the hearts of the audience. Boman Irani does well in that one scene he's in. Rishi Kapoor nails it, even in a highly manipulative, prejudiced role. Sana Saeed has evolved. She's got spunk, and she'll need a lot more movies to show the truth to them all.
Overall, the movie's a hell of a ride while it lasts, but no good otherwise. It's just that the expectations of the audience today of Johar have evolved, like his last two films. This just doesn't seem to match up. If you've got nothing to do though, and you've already caught up on international hits like 'Looper' and 'End of Watch', catch this harmless flick.
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