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Student Of The Year  : Click, click, a grand photo shoot
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Friday, October 19, 2012
Campus Entertainer
Karan Johar
Alia Bhatt, Sidharth Malhotra, Varun Dhawan
Freeze any frame and it will look like a page from Vogue or GQ. Sheen is queen and punch lines are witty-mean, but content is lean.

The plot: St Teresa’s School is uber chic with a great divide between the snooty-rich and the scholarship students for whom life’s a bitch – most times. Until debonair Abhimanyu (Sidharth Malhotra) who’s quite dabang, ambushes the well-heeled and wins them over.

The grand stand-off between Tata, represented by billionaire’s son Rohan Nanda (Varun Dhawan) and brand-flaunting Shanaya (Alia Bhatt), and Bata led by Abhimanyu soon crumbles and it’s time for a spot of ‘buddyship’. But fists of fury fly and angry nostrils are flared when both hunks start vying for the same trophy – the Student Of The year cup with Shanaya thrown in as another bone of contention. Who gets the girl is not necessarily the main hero of the show.

The good: Clearly an ode to contemporary campus romps and romances (think High School Musical), teen and pre-teen emotions of friendship, jealousy, love, rivalry, disappointment and heat are strewn all over. But equally clearly there’s not much offered by the story department and it takes Niranjan Iyengar’s energising one-liners and dialogues to sprinkle entertainment over it. There is plenty of humour for a particularly tender age group.

It’s really Debuts Of The Year as the performances are astoundingly good for which the credit has to go to director Karan Johar. Varun is undoubtedly the strongest of the three with his underdone acting and some deft dance moves but Sidharth with the smouldering good looks isn’t far behind.

Ishq wala love is amusing with funny lyrics by Anvita Dutt and Vishal-Shekhar produce a few thumping numbers like Disco Deewane. It’s a tad sad though that there’s so much reliance on remixing old chartbusters to get the required effect.

The bad: When the posters first came out, the first impression was that they looked like photo shoots for a glossy or for a glamorous commercial. Unfortunately, that image is retained till the end. There are bikini shots, one mandatory marriage-milieu number, one song with just poses against an exotic backdrop and click, click the feeling of a photo shoot lingers.

What is really disappointing is that the gloss quotient is right up there while novelty in story and narration doesn’t surface at all. Even the introduction of characters and situations with a monologue droning on has been too oft done to be refreshing. Unimaginatively, Johar uses a song to introduce each of his main characters and Alia is a throwback to Kareena’s classy Poo act in K3G.

The influence of all his old films is a bit much, even the peppy cameo of Kajol in a song evokes a ‘we’ve seen it before’ feeling. There is a back story for each character, all of it predictable, as if nobody sat down and thought it necessary to go down an unexplored route. There are random scenes which are absolutely not required, like the one where a bromance is going on between Varun and Sidharth when the former asks, out of the blue like a staccato, if the latter misses his dead parents. Dead or alive, none of the parents are really mint-fresh and likeable out here.

It’s a frothy, fun, youthful film but ends there. It definitely doesn’t have the timeless appeal which characterises most other Johar-helmed films. This time it looks like a formula has been poured out clinically without an involvement straight from the heart. The whole Thailand sequence looks pushed in to add exotic locations to the film.

Rishi Kapoor, Ronit Roy, Ram Kapoor and Boman Irani are some of the veterans propping up the three newcomers. Rishi Kapoor brings on the laughs for what has become a mandatory Johar ingredient – the funny gay.

The climax is also from the same old box of tricks. The innocence and immaturity of students of that age gets misplaced amidst all the uni-dimensional, high-end gloss while a substantial, moving story goes for a toss. With Shanaya dropping out of the race to win the Student Of The Year trophy, it loses what could have been an interesting element, petering out into a cliché two-boy clash.

Overall: Don’t go looking for the profound or even for a story. It’s strictly time-pass fun with pleasant visuals.

- Pooja Thakkar

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