Karan Johar is back on the director's chair... and back to romance, conflict, song-n-dance and of course, college campus [KUCH KUCH HOTA HAI]. Only thing, it's minus the stars this time. The absence of stars notwithstanding, the curiosity to watch a KJo film remains intact. This colossal film is being looked forward to like any extravaganza that stars A-listers. The three newcomers [Sidharth Malhotra, Varun Dhawan, Alia Bhatt] couldn't have dreamt of such a grandiloquent launch. But the weight on their shoulders is enormous. One expects them to make the right noise and perform like accomplished professionals in this lavishly-packed teen flick.
High school and college romance has been the wallpaper of many a film in the past. Recall movies like JO JEETA WOHI SIKANDAR, KUCH KUCH HOTA HAI, MAIN HOON NA, MOHABBATEIN, 3 IDIOTS... One look at the trailers and you might assume that STUDENT OF THE YEAR is all about kids' partying, clubbing and leading a fun-filled life. Sure, STUDENT OF THE YEAR is an entertainer in the truest sense of the term, but KJo ensures that he presents the lives of the students in a competitive environment with an uplifting message that comes across loud and clear: Be a go-getter, seize the opportunity with both your hands, have the ambitious streak to attain what you desire.
STUDENT OF THE YEAR is a love story that traverses the trodden path [a high school romance]. But KJo is an artisan with intellect and taste and he ensures that the script is spruced up and modernized with such elan that it doesn't offend the spectator's wisdom or intelligence. The accomplished director takes on familiar material and gives it an entirely new twirl. This is escapist cinema at its best!
STUDENT OF THE YEAR is the story of Abhimanyu Singh [Sidharth Malhotra] and Rohan Nanda [Varun Dhawan], who traverse the path of competition, envy, triumph, failure, manipulation and heartbreak in their mini-universe of St. Teresa's High School, Dehradun. Abhimanyu a.k.a Abhi comes from a middle-class family and wants to achieve great heights of success and prosperity, the first step to which will be the 'Student Of The Year' trophy, while Rohan Nanda a.k.a. Ro is the son of a business tycoon [Ram Kapoor], who grapples with a complex relationship with his father and knows that winning the 'Student Of The Year' trophy will bag him the approval that he subconsciously craves for.
The two protagonists with distinct backgrounds and clear goals clash with each other in the locker room, football field and the canteen. Things are further knotted up when Shanaya Singhania [Alia Bhatt], the most popular girl on the campus, enters the equation. While Shanaya and Rohan are childhood sweethearts, Abhi's attraction for his best friend's girlfriend and Shanaya's quiet reciprocation causes a rift in their friendship. Abhi and Rohan are ready for a face-off and battle lines are drawn through the length and breadth of the campus, with only one goal in everyone's eyes -- 'Student Of The Year' trophy.
STUDENT OF THE YEAR narrates the wonderfully intricate and complex trajectory of three high school kids, their transition from adolescence/teenage to maturity/adulthood and the emotions they experience in this journey called life. Although love stories is a beaten to death genre, STUDENT OF THE YEAR doesn't fall into the 'typical romantic fare' category either. Karan and screenplay writer Rensil D'silva pay minute attention to detailing and character development and what comes across on screen seems like an unmarked, charming and bona fide experience within the commercial parameters.
In his by-now-famous style, Karan grabs your attention from the very commencement of the movie. What follows thereafter -- every sequence, actually -- is relevant to the film and the objective is to remain faithful to the essence of the story. Whether it's the amusing moments or the ones that depict the camaraderie of the three protagonists, also the ones when the two guys lock horns and get into the competitive spirit, Karan ensures that he packs in the optimum. There's no room for boredom or monotony in this high-on-energy movie. I'd like to make a special mention of one sequence, which reverberates in your memory and continues to haunt you after the show has concluded: A silent sequence with just music playing in the background. What a sequence! Besides, a number of emotional moments make you moist-eyed.
On the flipside, the 'Treasure Hunt' is the sole episode that doesn't match the brilliance of an otherwise dazzling movie. But there's so much happening in the movie, you overlook this minor aberration as it rushes to a pulse-pounding finale.
Vishal-Shekhar deliver a winning soundtrack. It's lively, sprightly, refined... the kind of sound that works majorly with the youth audience, the kind of sound one has come to expect from a KJo movie, the kind of soundtrack that's infectiously catchy. Besides, the gist of the movie comes across well in the varied tracks, be it 'Disco Deewane', 'Radha', 'Ishq Wala Love', 'Ratta Maar' and 'Vele'. It's a complete album and the choreography/execution of each track is stunning.
Cinematography [Ayananka Bose] is spectacular. Each and every frame looks grandiose, colorful. In fact, the glam that you associate with a KJo movie is all there. This one's truly a good looking film! Dialogue [Niranjan Iyengar] adjoins incredible significance to the movie and serves immensely to fortify even a commonplace sequence. The styling of each and every actor [Manish Malhotra] is awe-inspiring.
You need immense courage to launch newcomers in an extravagant production in these tough times. Not only has Karan chosen faces that have the potential to be the poster boys/girl of Gen X, but he ensures that they are presented like huge stars in their debut movie. Both Sidharth and Varun are excessively talented, supremely confident and hardly look like first-time actors. Photogenic, charming and self-assured, it's tough to say who's better, Sidharth or Varun? Both shine in their respective roles, both enact their parts with gusto. Sidharth gets some terrific moments, while Varun is a talent one can't help but marvel at. Alia's role is reminiscent of Kareena in KABHI KHUSHI KABHIE GHAM [remember Poo?]. Stylish, classy, born with a silver spoon, she's someone who loves to flaunt not just her clothes and bags, but also her riches. Extremely photogenic [she looks like a doll, frankly], Alia makes a super-confident debut. In fact, all three, Siddharth, Varun and Alia, are here to stay!
The film has a super-strong supporting cast. Known for essaying romantic roles in his illustrious career, Rishi Kapoor's portrayal of a baddie in AGNEEPATH earlier this year and as a gay dean in STUDENT OF THE YEAR is sure to raise eyebrows. But it also proves how courageous he is when it comes to choosing roles. The veteran is simply lovable. Ram Kapoor is another actor who has proved his credentials in the past and proves it yet again. He's fantastic!
Kayoze Irani is another youngster who stands out. Extremely natural... he shines in a powerful sequence towards the final stages of the film. Manasi Rachh, as Alia's friend, sparkles in several sequences. She's too good. Sahil Anand, as Varun's friend, is first-rate, providing some genuinely funny laughs.
Ronit Roy is wonderfully restrained. Sana Saaed looks glamorous and does well. Manjot Singh is pleasant. Gautami Kapoor conveys a lot through her expressive eyes. Maninee De Mishra, Farida Jalal, Prachi Shah, Sushma Seth, Akshay Anand, all lend adequate support. Boman Irani appears in a cameo.
On the whole, STUDENT OF THE YEAR is amongst Karan Johar's most accomplished works. The youth brigade would love it and those who have already past that age would want to revisit those days. This one's entertainment, entertainment and entertainment at its best. Clearly, KJo has a winner on hands, yet again!