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Review: Student of the Year 2 disappoints

Last updated on: May 13, 2019 22:32 IST

It's time to move on from fights and dances and cliché.
Bollywood needs more meaningful messages.
Bollywood needs more inspiring dreams.
Bollywood needs more realistic role models.
Bollywood needs more women athletes.
Bollywood needs more crying men.
Bollywood needs more gay characters, states Kshamaya Daniel.

A Celebration of Tiger Shroff's Stunts, Dance Moves and Abs is what Student of the Year 2 really should have been titled.

The film hit the screens on Friday, but a 'hit' is not at all how I'd describe it.

In a word, it was weak -- not totally unredeemable, yet far from a success. Sure, it checked all Karan Johar's signature boxes of fabulousness and pizzazz, but that's really all it was.

A big, pretentious mess of Tommy Hilfiger labels and over-rated testosterone.

Making their red-letter debut with this film are Tara Sutaria, who plays Mridula aka Mia Chawla, and Ananya Panday, who plays Shreya Randhawa. Tara makes a bigger splash than Ananya. Her character is shallow, but the camera loves her.

For their very first time on the screen, I'd say both girls held their own, but this was less to do with their acting chops and more to do with the fact that their roles held little challenge.

I'll give them this though -- they were better than Tiger Shroff, who played Rohan Sachdev, the main protagonist and neighbourhood hero. Considering he's already got a good head start on them, that's a proud accomplishment.

My personal favourite from the film was Aditya Seal who plays the villainous Manav Randhawa, Rohan's cut-throat competitor and Shreya's brother. His acting had more dum than that of his co-stars.

 

This wasn't Tiger's best performance, not by a long shot. When he wasn't throwing punches or flipping through the air, his acting was toneless. Maybe it was done on purpose to give him the angsty air of a teenager (because he certainly didn't look the part).

A hilariously miscast role, in my opinion, as I can't see any 17-18-year-old college student looking or acting the way Tiger Shroff did. His six-pack probably took up more screen time than he did and he backflipped his way into every scene.

Actually, almost every man in the film was athletically built with conventional good looks, which I think sets unrealistic standards for all the teens who will soon be watching this film.

Case in point: At the climax of the film, during a kabaddi match, Rohan (Tiger) performs an unparalleled feat of athleticism with a shoulder that he dislocated about fifteen minutes prior and shrugs off eight lumbering men without shedding even one tear. Who are we fooling here?

Being the second in its franchise, the storyline was predictable. Although, the backstory to Shreya's (Ananya) spoiled-rich-girl act had an interesting angle that cements the fact that money can't buy happiness.

I was also happy to see the inclusion of a lesbian couple. Though the allusion to their intimate status was decidedly implicit, this is one of the few instances of lesbian characters in Bollywood films, so consider me impressed.

An infuriating point to note was the casual sexism promoted in the movie. Both boys, Rohan and Manav, compete for the Dignity Cup and the Student of the Year trophy through a series of sporting events where, disappointingly, not a single girl is to be seen.

No, the girls at St Teresa's College merely watch from the side lines like determined, self-appointed cheerleaders (that is, in addition to an actual all-girls cheerleading squad).

Can a girl not be the Student of the Year? Where are the girls's sports teams?

Evidently, the girls of this college only have an interest in dancing competitions. While there's nothing wrong with that, the lack of female interest in anything but dances and boys is rather insulting.

Onto another kind of sexism: The film boasts uncountable scenes of violence, boys beating each to a pulp over petty rivalries, and no one blinks an eye.

Then, Shreya's father, a wealthy and severe man, visits the college to deal with his errant daughter who has vandalised Rohan's bike. He disciplines her with a slap to the face and the theatre seems to hold a collective breath.

The scene was poorly done and I felt uncomfortable with how it panned out, given that violence had been accorded normalcy right from the beginning of the film.

Here's something to think about: Assault is assault, no matter what the gender of the victim is. No type of assault should be accepted or normalised.

Moving on to the more redeeming qualities of the film -- the cinematography and production quality was outstanding. The film was shot at St Teresa's school, Dehradun, and some bits shot at St Xavier's college, Mumbai. The shooting locations, all 32 of them, gave the film a wonderful authenticity.

The costumes, however, were highly unrealistic. Dharma Productions seems to have spared no cost for, in any given frame, you can see the modelesque students decked out in the likes of Moschino, Gucci and Off-White -- all brands from which even one jacket could run into lakhs of rupees. Not to mention the alarming amount of booty shorts and miniscule crop tops that are somehow within the dress code.

The musical score composed by Vishal Shekhar was perhaps the best part of the film with three catchy tracks: Hook Up, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani and Mumbai Dilli Di Kudiya. The title track, Hook Up, features Alia Bhatt, an 'ex-student', in its music video that plays at the very end of the movie.

And while on the topic of unexpected cameos, Will Smith (yes, you read that right) also pops up, seemingly out of nowhere, and joins our protagonists for an impromptu round of the dance floor.

Despite these stand-up aspects of the film, the positives just aren't enough to outweigh the negatives.

All in all, the narrative is tiresome. Beneath the glossy layer of drama, love triangles, synchronised dances and filmy fighting that comes with the Bollywood territory, there isn't much of an actual plot, other than two girls vying for the affections of the star athlete.

The ideas are vapid to the point of being childish. Right from the first five minutes, it became clear to me that the whole thing was unworkably clichéd.

The first SOTY, with its similar plotline, was able to sneak past critics and become one of the highest grossing films of 2012 because it was fresh and fun at that time, but this type of feel-good movie only works once. This is proven by its extraneous sequel which is just no longer relevant.

It's time to move on from fights and dances and cliché.

Bollywood needs more meaningful messages.

Bollywood needs more inspiring dreams.

Bollywood needs more realistic role models.

Bollywood needs more women athletes.

Bollywood needs more crying men.

Bollywood needs more gay characters.

The Indian cinema industry is only just waking up to these things and slowly replacing its hackneyed love stories with deeper plots.

SOTY 2 just came at the wrong time.

Rediff Rating:

KSHAMAYA DANIEL