By Ajachi Chakrabarti
PERHAPS I should apologise to Dharma Productions and Red Chillies Entertainment for allowing outside events prejudice this review of their Parent’s Day-cum-Debutante Ball that is Student of the Year. Maybe I would have thought more favourably of the film — unlikely, but possible — if I hadn’t seen it hours after Yash Chopra’s death. Karan Johar, like so many other cogs in the Bollywood machine, has never shied from borrowing tropes from the man who wrote the very formula the industry strives to emulate. However much he tries to hide it in the stratospheric heights of an über-elite Dehradun school, Johar falls back on the tired narrative devices of song-and-dance sequences in exotic locales, where romance is expressed only through Urdu poetry, and the world revolves around the lovebirds’ daily drama.
Unlike Chopra, Johar does not understand the power of empathy in the Bollywood formula. Chopra would construct very Indian social barriers that audiences identified with, however contrived they were. Johar’s protagonists are Delhi-brattified characters straight out of The OC, surrounded by a bunch of stereotypes masquerading as a supporting cast. Rishi Kapoor is hamstrung by playing a closet homosexual whose raison d’être is to get a cheap laugh. He spins it by playing a Mr Weatherbee instead of a Dean Pelton. It makes him likeable, but doesn’t add depth.
Likeability is the only thing the actors strive for in this most commercial of films. What little negative traits seep in are caused by, and blamed on, an illogical Triwizard tournament decided on the basis of a triathlon where male and female students compete in the same race. The events serve to eliminate all who threaten our two sculpted alpha males, There is the cheesiest of reconciliations by the dean’s deathbed.
Likeability is something the film should have strived for itself. It is very difficult to watch it without a negative attitude with your overpriced popcorn. The blatant nepotism does it no favours. Neither does the spectacle of the protagonists infesting your TV for weeks before to shill for soaps and ecommerce websites. I’d love to say that the new generation’s youthful energy helped, but like India’s political dynasties, the young simply bring more of the old. Just with fewer wrinkles.
By Ajachi Chakrabarti