From the offset, I felt as if Student Of The Year (SOTY) would put Karan Johar back on the map. His productions following his last directorial of My Name is Khan in 2010 haven’t impressed me very much, aside from Agneepath earlier this year. As a director, Johar has never failed to impress me. His attention to detail is always commendable. My expectations, therefore, for SOTY were high but manageable. I knew that the film had three debutantes in Alia Bhatt, Varun Dhawan and Sidharth Malhotra and this fact alone made my expectations lower a little. It’s not really right expecting so much from newbies, right?
The story of SOTY is, of course, about three students and their friends who are competing for the title of the same name as the movie. Shanaya (Alia) is the girlfriend of Rohan (Varun) who is the shaan of the college due to his rich father’s investment in the institution and also because he is seen as the guy that has everything and is good at it all. In comes Abhimanyu (Sidharth) who blurs the lines completely as he is good at sport and also academically strong… but doesn’t have a privileged upbringing. In an attempt to win the attention of Rohan, who has a wandering eye, Shanaya hatches a plan to make him jealous by constantly being around Abhimanyu. Rohan and Abhimanyu are friends by that time but things become complicated when Abhimanyu develops feelings for Shanaya and, on top of that, realises that Varun doesn’t really know how he feels about her, despite having gone ‘steady’with her for four years.
It has to be said, first and foremost, that the three protagonists being introduced with SOTY come with much potential. It is difficult to see, aside from KJo’s usual over-dramatised treatment, that this is their debut movie. Alia is great and, in some scenes, reminds me of her sister Pooja. She carries off the role of Shanaya well but somehow I feel her look means she will not be able to fit into a very many different types of roles following this movie. I hope she proves me wrong! Varun, in his role as Rohan, has the right proportion of nice-guy and brat rolled into one perfectly. However, what strikes a chord with his character in particular is that he has a conscience and that – as is said in the movie – he is a softie at heart. It’s a refreshing take on a son from a rich family in its typical sense. Sidharth makes quite a debut too, however, whilst there is no arguing that he looks good, I felt that he couldn’t express very well. Maybe this was his style but I just didn’t think he did much more than look good and, comparatively, Varun wins in those stakes and more. Sorry Sid!
A special mention goes to the ensemble cast which included Sana Saeed (little Anjali from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai), Ram Kapoor and his REAL wife Gautami, Boman Irani, Rishi Kapoor, Ronit Roy… but, for me, the specialest (is that even a word!) mention goes to Kayoze Irani (Boman Irani’s son) who played Soto. He was another who made his debut and what a debut it is. Much like his father, he seems to be the kind of actor who will go far in a variety of different roles. Let’s hope he sticks to character roles as opposed to those which he knows will impress the masses. Follow in your father’s footsteps who refuses to be typecast!
Now… this brings me on to Karan Johar as a director. I’ve got to say, SOTY has KJo all over it – glitzy, larger-than-life and very clean-cut scenes. This is where he excels and SOTY doesn’t fail at all. However, the one thing I will say for SOTY is that it doesn’t really appeal to me emotionally. Whether this is because too much is crammed in in little time or whether the characters aren’t quite as thought out as they should be OR that the right striking-a-chord scenes are wrongfully omitted, I don’t know. The SOTY trophy is a little unbelieveable in this day and age and reminds me of a mish-mash of Mohabbatein, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham and… Saved By The Bell!? I guess what I am seeking to put across is that whilst it is branded as a modern college movie which KJo may have thought today’s generation will be seeing for the first time, it feels as if it’s a little stuck in a time warp. In this day and age, I would like to think audiences want a little more in a college flick… and, in that respect, SOTY seems to fall short considerably. It’s all seen before in my book!
The soundtrack of the movie is indeed the one thing that can’t be stopped from standing out. The picturisation of the songs is also very much a KJo thing which is something cinema would have missed post My Name Is Khan and K3G. ‘Radha’ and ‘Disco Deewane’ are particularly brilliant in their glory and’Ishq Wala Love’ is the sombre number which is preppy yet romantic too. Shoot me if you thought otherwise but I didn’t really like the placing of old tracks in the movie such as ‘Papa Kehta Hai’, ‘Gulabi Aankhen’, ‘Yeh Chand Sa Roshan Chehra’, etc. Thanks KJo, you’ve totally ruined ‘Papa Kehte Hai’ for me now what with the beeped out swearing which occurs during this movie’s rendition of it. I don’t think any of these songs were needed and I didn’t understand why they were even there.
Overall, I’ve got to admit that the movie wasn’t a bad watch but it is, in no uncertain terms, KJo’s overtly romanticised look at college life which is very predictable. If you’re looking for an easy watch then this is the one for you but if, like me, you’re looking for even a bit of an emotional connection and a little of the unexpected, then you will be a little disappointed. I’m sorry KJo, Kajol just wasn’t lucky enough for you this time!