The Student of the Year franchise is to film-goers what iOS updates are to Apple users – the latest one doesn’t seem like a big improvement on the last, and nobody asked for a new one yet they keep putting out more.
The first Student of the Year, directed by Karan Johar in 2012, was pointless but inoffensive. Set in a swanky Dehradun school, St Teresa, it was about an annual school event so competitive, and with a title so coveted, that it turned best friends into rivals and broke up romances. What powered that vacuous story was an inherent sense of fun, some memorable tunes, and the curiosity around the potential of the three newcomers who were launched in it.
In Student of the Year 2, directed by Punit Malhotra, the competition has gone inter-school, the main sport is kabaddi, and the Dignity Cup is the big reward. Like Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander, the chief rivalry is between students from a hip, fancy school, and kids from the modest local school. The characters, however, are familiar ‘types’ that you can recognise from dozens of films. There’s the rich bully son of the school trustee (Aditya Seal), the earnest, middle-class kid on a sports scholarship (Tiger Shroff), the pretty girl confused over matters of the heart (Tara Sutaria), and the entitled campus brat (Ananya Panday). You have to pardon my liberal use of the words ‘kids’, especially in the case of Aditya and Tiger, neither of whom looks like they belong on a campus, and both of whom look too old to be squeezed into student uniform.
But let’s not get into authenticity or detail. This is the Student of the Year franchise – or as I like to call it, the films that make you wonder why your parents sent you to such a boring college. At a dance competition in St Teresa, they get fancy judges like Farah Khan and music composers Vishal and Shekhar. Will Smith makes an appearance too. At the college I went to, we were lucky to get a reasonably well-known NGO worker who lived in the next block.
Student of the Year 2 is both predictable, and far from original. But that’s not even the big problem with the film. Unlike the previous instalment this one isn’t grounded in emotion, so it’s hard to be invested in the characters or affected by their conflicts. Doubly so when they look like they’ve stepped straight out of the pages of a fashion magazine. The girls, of course, never have a hair out of place, or a chipped nail in sight, but even Aditya Seal has perfectly blow-dried hair that never gets messed up even after an intense game of kabaddi.
The acting, if you can call it that, is… how do you say this politely…‘basic’. Ananya Panday as the campus enfant terrible has some spunk, but the other two newcomers have all the range and the expressions of your favourite emojis. The film’s singular strength is Tiger Shroff, who kicks, leaps, twirls, twists, and pirouettes in the film’s dance and sports and fight sequences. The camera loves him, and it worships his abs each time he loses his shirt – which he does a lot in this film. Tiger works hard to lift Student of the Year 2 off the page, but he’s pitted against a clunky screenplay that seems determined to weigh it down.
It’s no spoiler to reveal that the film ends with the Hook-Up song that’s filmed on Tiger and Alia Bhatt. Looking back I think we can all agree – except Kangana Ranaut maybe – that giving us Alia Bhatt is what we’ll remember the first Student of the Year for. The new film? I’m not so sure.
I’m going with two out of five for Student of the Year 2. It isn’t unwatchable, it’s just unnecessary.
Rating: 2 / 5