Stories in a bubble

Karan Johar’s new film, Student of the Year, is a frothy, neon bubble. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998), his other film set on a campus, gets a drastic makeover, adapting to today. The teenagers on this campus in Dehradun—resembling a five-star hotel with glossy, candyfloss interiors—are more ambitious and more endowed with wealth. The best among them are judged by their sports cars, Prada bags and Manolo Blahnik shoes.

St Teresa’s High School is the campus in Dehradun, insulated from India, a world in itself, where Johar’s musical extravaganza unfolds. The story is thin. It’s a love triangle that involves the school’s two best boys, Rohan Nanda (Varun Dhawan) and Abhimanyu Singh (Sidharth Malhotra), arch-rivals and friends, and its best-dressed girl, Shanaya Singhania (Alia Bhatt).

This competition favours the athletic and the dancer who can replicate Hrithik Roshan’s moves. Like in most campus movies, Johar divides the students into neat categories: the fat, bespectacled Parsi guy who excels in studies, the flamboyant, rich guy who manages to get decent grades but mocks anything intellectual (though there is nothing cerebral on this campus, except a treasure hunt which is also part of the “student of the year" competition), and the tomboy best friend of the diva who is competitive and has no male attention.

Malhotra and Dhawan, though meant to be unlike each other, are prototypes of the same, narrow idea of manhood—a cosmetic fusion of athleticism and polish. Both actors live up to the job. Bhatt sorely lacks acting skills and has no charismatic presence on screen. The only character with humanity and some shades is the dean, played with panache by Kapoor.

Student of the Year is not as entertaining as it is aspirational for teenagers. Its fake world is not convincing.

Student of the Year released in theatres on Friday.

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