The toughest job in a Karan Johar film, one is bound to think, is of the cleaners, who I guess spend most of their time maintaining a spotless set. The directors new film Student of the Year, is a film about good looking teenagers on an impossibly chic campus, breaking into fights and song, yet while watching the film, you will never find a piece of trash paper or soda can lying around.
At St Teresa High School in Dehradun (think that Riverdale-like setting of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, only swankier), trust fund brat Rohan (Varun Dhawan) is the coolest kid with all the hottest toys – a flaming red Ferrari, designer togs, and the prettiest girl in school, Shanaya (Alia Bhatt). That is, until Abhimanyu (Sidharth Malhotra) roars in on his bike. He’s the one with modest means – which is relative in a Karan Johar movie, because while Abhi’s family may not have enough makhan for their parathas, he can still afford the brands. After the typical teething troubles, the two boys become fast friends despite their drastically different ambitions.
What tests the two’s friendship is the contest devised by the school’s dean, Yogendra Vashisht (Rishi Kapoor). to pick the one student who will land a full scholarship to an Ivy League college. Typically, however, it’s the girl…or rather their ishq wala love for Shanaya that drives a wedge between the friends. It seems very clear that in Karan Johar’s world youe biggest crime is being poor. The rich kids live it up extravagantly, while the rest (and even their families) aspire for membership into this exclusive club. This is the kind of world where the rich kid’s obnoxious dad flies half the campus to Thailand on his private jet to attend his son’s marriage.
But its also true that Student of the Year doesn’t ask you to take it seriously. Johar’s “holiday movie”, is intendet to give you a good time. The debutants, in turn, put their best foot forward: Sidharth Malhotra is earnest and has a pleasing presence, while Alia Bhatt is cute as the clueless Shanaya, if a little raw. It’s Varun Dhawan who stands out with a confident, charming turn, able to tackle both comical and vulnerable scenes with ease. Yet if there’s a performance that glues together this film, it’s Rishi Kapoor’s. He never flinches in an unusual role, playing the part for laughs yet also infusing soul into what could have so easily turned into a caricature.
Too long by about twenty minutes, the film could’ve done with some tightening – perhaps the clunky treasure hunt sequence could go? Nitpickings aside, this is a breezy, enjoyable film by a director who knows his craft. I’m going with three out of five for Karan Johar’s Student of the Year. If fun is what you’re seeking, you won’t be disappointed.