Friday, April 19, 2013

Of Student Of The Year...

So finally I managed to catch Student Of The Year. Given that there are no Hindi movie theaters here, I have to wait for a really long time to watch movies in a good print online :( 

Whatever Ram Gopal Verma thinks of Karan Johar's style of cinema, I am a big fan of him. I mean I have grown up watching his films. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai came out in 1998 (Class Sixth), Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham in 2001 (Class Ninth), Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna in 2006 (Second Year in College), My Name Is Khan in 2010 (First Year In The Job) and Student Of The Year in 2013 (First Year of MBA). Except perhaps, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham of which I am not a big fan, I like the others with Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna being the most favorite. Naturally, I was super excited for Student Of The Year. Did I like it? Yes. Did I love it? No

Student Of The Year (SOTY) is about finding the student of the year in a school named St.Teresa. The main characters of the film are Rohan (Varun Dhawan), Abhimanyu (Sidharth Malhotra), Shanaya (Aliya Bhatt), Sudo (Kayoze Irani), and Yogindra Vashisht (Rishi Kapoor). The story is fairly simple and nothing unpredictable happens but what I really really liked about the film was Varun Dhawan. He was brilliant in the film, and this being his first film he displayed a great potential of being a good actor. Varun plays Rohan Nanda, son of a rich industrialist father who is emotionally troubled from inside because his father never loved him. He was never the good son of his father. You might hate him in the beginning but eventually you realize that he is not a bad guy. He is as he says confused. Varun brings a charming vulnerability to Rohan's character and even though Abhi was the underdog, I was rooting for Rohan all the while. He is really good in some of the emotional scenes.

Karan creates this fantasy school which we know we are not going to find in reality. It is the ability to create a fantasy world, where everyone wears designer labels, the guys have the perfect abs, the girls have the perfect bodies, everything is so spotlessly clean, which is Karan's strength. You can accuse him of being unreal but not even one shot in the film can be called tacky. His cinema is the exact opposite of Anurag Kashyap's realism. The songs are beautifully shot and choreographed. I liked Ishq Wala Love but Vele was Honey Singh-types foot tapping.. loved it

My favorite scene in the movie was the sequence at the wedding of Rohan's brother when Abhi realizes he is in love with Shanaya. It is a beautiful scene where none of the three characters speak but through the emotions they portray their feeling.

Secretly in love with Shanaya..

Takes off her earing.. 

Because she looks good with her hair coming forward

Rohan takes her hand from Abhi..

He will keep the earing for himself

Rohan hopes they too get married..

Loved the scene..

Karan's strength is romance and without a doubt, he creates the feeling of love brilliantly. The song Ishq Wala Love has been lampooned at every forum (check Q-Tiyapa) but I think it is splendidly shot. It reminded of the song Tumhi Dekho Na from Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna. All the three characters are wearing the same color dress, in a way signifying that they are all in love. In fact, every song is shot beautifully.

One of my other favorite scenes was when Rohan realises that Abhi too is not loved by his family, so he just comes and gives a hug to Abhi, with out saying anything. Later in the film, after Abhi's grandmother dies, Shanaya comes and does the same to Abhi. I loved both the scenes. That sometimes you do not need words..all you need is a hug :(

This also reminded me of my favorite scene from Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu.


I also really liked the film's message that friendship and relationships are more important than winning a competition.
Dost to sabhi ke hote hain, lekin school college ke doston ki baat hi kuch aur hoti hai. Maa baap ki tarah samajhte hai humein vo dost, jaante hai vo dost. Takraar, jalan, competition chahe kisi bhi daur se guzar jaye yeh dosti, dil pe uska koi asar nahi hota.

That was a very important theme of the movie but I got a bit confused by what the film is trying to say in the end. In the final scene, Sudo accuses Dean Vashisht of breaking the friendship between all his friends because of starting this Student Of The Year competition. He says that the dean is a lonely guy and he has done this for his own entertainment because he is a gay man. This particular scene astounded me. Competitions are held in every school..what does that have to do with the principal being gay?!?! The purpose of competition is to prepare one for the life ahead because everywhere there is competition. It is you who has to learn to live with it. You have to overcome that feeling and take it sportingly. That doesn't mean you stop competing. Friends are important in everyone's life but you have to accept that in some things, your friends are better than you. Who is asking you to spoil the relationship with your friends? Eventually, these things will not matter and you have to overcome that feeling because life is a competition.

Which is why I agreed with one scene in the film when they are discussing about the competition,
Shruti says "Let's face it guys, agar hume ek hi jagah pahuncha hai to doston ke beech competition to hoga hi". Then Rohan says, "iska matlab khud jeetne ke liye tum apne best friend ko hara dogi". And then Abhi says, "haan".

Interestingly, at one point Shruti is shown reading The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. And of course, we all know what Ayn Rand is famous for: the theory of objectivism, the theory of being selfish, competition, free markets, capitalism. Perhaps it is Rand's influence that forces Shruti to make the above statement and tries to persuade Shanaya to drop out.

There is no escaping from Ayn Rand :)

If I think of my life, I find it so funny that when I was in the engineering college, there was so much competition. Uski kitni percentage ayi, uska kitne package ka job laga. And of course, one feels some  jealousy. As they said in 3 Idiotsjab khud fail hote ho toh bura lagta hain, lekin jab apke dost top kare, toh aur bhi bura lagta hain. But think of it now, it is four years since college is over and now did those things matter now? How many people are you in touch with? Only a few close friends no? Yes, I did not have the highest salary package, I might have earned less, but each of us have our different lives and priorities. A friend who just sent me the pictures of her wedding which she has not shown to anyone, a friend who came to the US and told me he really wants to meet, and a friend who told me that she is going to one of the top universities in the US. I might not be as smart as them, I might not be as rich as them but I feel good that they value me. But their circumstances are totally different than me. And somehow of late, I have become a very strong believer in luck. My philosophy in life is give your best effort, and then leave it. Que sera sera. It is frustrating at times. It will, of course, not work out the way I want but what else can I do? I gave my best shot no? And it is this competing feeling that we have to overcome. I am, in fact, going through the same competing phase in the B-school where everyone is desperate for a job and competition is literally cut-throat. I always try to convince myself that some things are not made for you. Even if I get a really high paying job, will I be really happy? Because I like to do some other things and for me, job is a way to get money so that I can live my life. Maybe it is a defeatist attitude but I know my capabilities. All I need is satisfaction. We have to learn somehow compete without effecting our feelings.

I also felt in a few places that the film advocated inaction instead of doing the right thing. When Coach Shah had to decide who should be the captain of the team out of Abhi and Rohan, he avoids confrontation and makes Jeet the captain. Do you think it was the right approach? Shouldn't the better captain be chosen? 

You remember how brilliantly Chak De! India tackled this issue. Kabir confronted the two players - Preeti and Komal  - that they played for themselves instead of the team? 

Coaches have to take tough decisions and that is what they are for, no?

Another thing that was disturbing was the character of Rohan's mother. She just doesn't say anything. Her husband insulted Rohan all the time and treated her like a servant. Shashi in English Vinglish was criticised because she didn't say anything to her kids. During the climax, Rohan's father is supporting Abhi because he doesn't want his son to defeat him. His mom just didn't say anything at all in the film, just kept crying. Perhaps it was the realism that Karan wanted to show but in a film about competition and standing for your self, shouldn't she have said something? 

The father doesn't even let her love her son!!

But perhaps the most disturbing part of the film was the character of the dean. The film said that gay people cannot be ever happy in life and they will die lonely. I mean why is that? Yes, they do have a difficult life but don't they have a right to be happy? Sudo says, hum jaise logon ko partner nahi milte. Because Sudo is fat and Dean is gay. Why it is that gay people can't have have someone in life? And as always, some of the worst stereotypes about gay people were shown in the film. Sexual innuendos ("I am all wet"), love for pink, etc. At so many times, Abhi and Rohan joked about being gay. Gay hai kya? Ab tu kiss to nahi karega, nahi main gale bhi nahi lagunga. When will our films stop showing them in such poor light? Critics and audiences hailed Dostana but I think it was one of the worst films to come out of Dharma Productions. Just treat them in a normal way. In fact, some critics have said that the chemistry between Abhi and Rohan is so strong that they seem a perfect couple.

To hammer through the idea that Abhi and Rohan share the most epic dosti imaginable, we are treated to every possible flirtation with homoeroticism you could possibly conjure up. There's the running joke of Abhi asking Rohan, "You're not going to kiss me, are you?" whenever their unmanly friendship feelings emerge, and Rohan typically counters it with, "I'm not going to even hug you!", right before he goes in for that all-important meaningful hug. Then there are the many meaningful looks, the casual sleepover Abhi has at Rohan's house and of course, the limp chemistry they have with Shanaya, compared to what they have with one another.

While it can be amusing and even cute at times, I wish dearly it wasn't in abundance here, because tucked away deep inside this sort of lazy comedy is what could've been the emotional heart of the SOTY - an actual, genuine, honest-to-god love story between two men. The two male leads have clear chemistry with one another. Not a whole lot of the plot would need to change; the flimsy characterization given to Shanaya almost seems to confirm the existence of the romance as subtext. The love triangle is never truly about her, and at one point the film gives her a rare moment of individual agency by having her get upset that the boys are squabbling over her. "You just want to own me!" she yells at them, because it's true: she's little more than a pretty accessory to both of them.
Just read this excellent post on the same. 
Diving into the aggravatingly shallow world of Karan Johar: Student of the Year

But still, I will say I liked Student Of The Year. It is a film with a heart. I wouldn't watch it again though. I so wish I had seen it on the big screen. I love melodrama. I miss Hindi films terribly :(

What are your views on the film?

Dialogue of the Day:

सपनों का कोई class नहीं होता
- Rohan, Student Of The Year

1 comment:

  1. Bollywood has far greater variance in quality. The best mainstream stuff is about as good as Hollywood when it comes to serious drama, dark satire, gritty crime and true musicals. The best in other genres action, sci-fi, superhero, spy, chick flicks does not match Hollywood

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