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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



Student of the Year-2, Review: Kya baddi kya baddi

Student of the Year-2, Review: Kya baddi kya baddi

Kya baddi Karan Johar, what was the earth-shaking supersonic idea that made you cash in on the ‘The biggest franchise of Bollywood’ (imdb’s words, not mine) and redraw the Archie-Betty-Veronica isosceles triangle for the umpteenth time, after you yourself had milked it silica gel dry exactly 20 years ago, as Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (185 minutes), and launch a pomp-romp-stomp-clomp-chomp-whomp called Student of the Year 2 (mercifully 145 minutes)?

Yes, we all recall SOTY 1 (2012, 146 minutes). We kind of liked the Intelligence Quiz in that outing, but you now chose to apply physical prowess as the yardstick in the Student of the Year, Competition 2. We know that many films have been made on running, hockey, football, boxing, cricket, and more, so you had to pick a sport that was a track less, or better still, not travelled. Meaning no disrespect to the game of kabaddi (please look up the word on a search engine and get the basics in place), you should have had better sense than to make kabaddi the fulcrum for more than half the film, a film in which all the girls wear micro skirts and hot pants in all the scenes, and where swanky cars and lavish parties are about as common as Twitter handles. Unless, of course, you wanted to counter-poise the haves and the have-nots (the hero and his hangers on), and lead-up to a confrontation of epic proportions.

Rohan (what was the guy called in SOTY 1?) Sachdev (Tiger Shroff), a hardworking student of the Pishorilal Chamandas College (now that’s a futuristic name, if ever there was one; there was no such college in SOTY 1) in Mussoorie, is in a relationship with a girl who stays not too far from his home, Mridula Chawla (Tara Sutaria). They go to the same college, but are separated when Mridula transfers to Saint Teresa, an upmarket college in Dehradun, for the wealthy and privileged. Rohan is unable to afford their fees and is left back. His loving uncle (Rajesh Kumar) and aunt (apparently, Rohan is an orphan; don’t the words rhyme?) (aunt is played by Manasi Joshi Roy) arrange for a scholarship under the sports quota in St. Teresa, since Rohan is excellent at sports, and manage to get him admission. Meanwhile, Mridula has changed her identity, and adopted the moniker of Mia Chawal, to fit in with others, at her new college. She initially stays away from him, but they soon renew their relationship.

At college, Rohan meets Manav Singh Randhawa (Aditya Seal), a rich and affluent student two-time winner of the Student of the Year Cup, and son of the Managing Trustee of the college (familiar feeling?). The two become friends, but Rohan remains at loggerheads with Manav’s sister, Shreya Singh Randhawa (Ananya Pandey), who detests him and plays practical jokes on him and his new clique of friends. The college announces a dance competition; Rohan and Mia are set up against Manav and Shreya. Mia wishes to win the contest and attain popularity, while Shreya wants to convince her tyrannical father of her ability in dance, and get his nod to join a dance school in London. Manav and Shreya win the contest, after Mia falters during the final step. When Rohan goes to console Mia, he finds her hugging Manav.

Let me quell all doubts that part 2 is a sequel or prequel, but is most definitely a product of the KJoUniverse. Coming to writing credits, Numero Uno was attributed to Niranjan Iyengar (dialogue) and screenplay by Rensil D'Silva. Imdb gave a third credit to Karan Johar himself. This time around, imdb credits Karan Johar with 'characters’, and leaves out Arshad Sayed completely. Wiki is more appreciative (I can corroborate that I read this name on screen too), and gives credit where credit is due, as written by Arshad Sayed. Now comes the accounting, debit~credit, and Arshad must keep a sackful of salt handy.

Rohan’s six-packs and other fix packs are fait accompli. Not a word about his background or parents. You get two fleeting glimpses of his uncle and aunt, and you might be pardoned for thinking that they are, in fact, his parents. When he is given the good news of his admission to St. Teresa, he wants to share it first with Mridula, so he launches himself from his rooftop to another, to a courtyard to a pole, to a hole, to a roll,  to a swing, and a miss, across the town, till he reaches his miss. To his utter heart-break, she is fast asleep. For those two minutes, I thought his name was Tarzan and Mridula was Jane. Was there a curfew in force? Couldn’t he go over to her house using any normal mode of transport? Didn’t either of them have phones or computers?

An unexpectedly good scene takes place in the principal’s office, where Mr. Randhawa (Chetan Pandit) slaps his daughter, Shreya. He’s there in two more scenes, reprising the role Tarun Bose essayed in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Anupama (1966). You do feel for the love that his daughter was deprived of, even having to celebrate her own birthday alone. That, in no way, condones the persona she projects in college and to the world in general. Maybe Arshad has thought it practical to update her character to 2018, while retaining her father in his 1966 avatar. If it needs reiterating, nothing is taboo in cinema: you can mix Archie-Betty-Veronica with Hrishikesh Mukherjee, with customary ease. Whether it will turn out to be effective will remain to be seen.

A Dharma Productions protégé, (assisted Karan Johar on Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham and Nikhil Advani on Kal Ho Na Ho, both produced by Johar’s Dharma banner; directed I Hate Luv Storys, Gori Tere Pyaar Mein), Punit Malhotra is stepping into his boss’s shoes. Karan directed SOTY 1 himself. Seven years ago, the effort garnered both critical acclaimed box-office moolah. Neither is likely in this seven-year itch. Wimps v/s elites is a concept as old as cinema itself. There could have been two cinematically engaging tracks, had he developed them: the Anupama syndrome and the coach Kuljeet (Gul Panag) character’s lesbian orientation. The latter is allowed to register, and then hurriedly cut, probably out of fears of getting an Adults only certificate, if allowed to develop. On the Anupama track, Punit got the basics wrong. A hated child who is a compulsive prankster, full of herself and has a ball during her routine life, is not likely to garner much sympathy just because she is shown celebrating her birthday alone and her father slaps her once. And all that kabaddi. An overage student who loses two running races, wins one and then wins the kabaddi title for his team using a dazzling display of gymnastics, cannot and ought not to be be crowned Student of the Year. Mr. Teresa is fine, so is ‘kabaddi Buddy’. Student of the Year, I daresay, is a bit much.

Tiger Shroff tries to remain clam amid all the action he executes and his eyes show a glazed vulnerability. A boyish appeal notwithstanding, the 28 year-old cannot pass as somebody nine years younger. Over the last couple of films, he is emerging more and more as a director’s actor, and he did not have the best in that department here. Tara Sutaria, in her film debut, is rather uni-dimensional and lacks chemistry. Twenty year-old Ananya Pandey, daughter of actor Chunky Pandey, the other debutante, makes sense of the oddball negativity that her character is ingrained with, and has good screen presence. Aditya Seal, cast as the hunky, macho villain, is even older than Tiger, 30 when the film was shot. He also has a large face, which makes it more difficult to accept him as 20. In action scenes, and in projecting wry humour, he comes across as fluent and self-assured.

Samir Soni as Principal Gujral, a special appearance, is not given to over-the-top shouting, and struggles to pull it off. Gul Panag keeps us interested with the sexy, sly grin at the edge of her cheeks, though the role fails to bloom. Manoj Pahwa as Coach Mahipal goes through the motions in one more undistinguished appearance. Manjot Singh as Dimpy was Manjot Singh as Dimpy in Part 1. Guess the limitations of being a sardar (sikh) prevent wider choices in get-up and make-up. Vishal Dadlani and Farah Khan are given four shots each, each of them four frames in duration, as judges of the competition. Alia Bhatt (Miss Student ofthe Year, 2012; special appearance in the ‘Hook Up’ song) is the bonus awarded to SOTY 2018. He is lying (half?) naked in bed, on satin sheets, when she is lowered into his arms, courtesy the Indian rope-trick. Just for that, Tiger, you chose this film wisely. Will Smith (special appearance in ‘Jawaani’ song) is there too, but a word of caution: do not blink. Use your will power. Where there is a will, there is a smith.

Salim Merchant’s name appears as music composer, on imdb, but is more likely Vishal-Shekhar who have composed the score. Salim is a voice on only of the songs. V-S have worked hard on the seven tracks, including the reprised ‘Disco song’ form SOTY1, and have sung a few of the tracks themselves. Sadly, though, the songs are likely to get on the charts by gaining some airplay outside the film, being out of place there. Ravi K. Chandran’s camera is always on the move, no wonder Deepa Bhatia’s cuts are mid-motion. Remo D’Souza and Farah Khan are into their acts, as groovy and elastic as they come. Rohan getting beaten many times is a welcome departure from the invincible hero.

Wonder what made the producers (Foxstar and Dharma) delay the release of the film for a full seven months. As it transpires, those who waited so long waited in vain, kya buddy Karan, kya buddy Punit (What say buddy Karan, what say buddy Punit)?

Rating: * ½


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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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