Unni and the Box: Student of the Year

I share quite a few movies on this site but I rarely take the time to let you guys know my thoughts on the films once I view them. And though I’m no one’s film critic, it’s only fair to give the full picture if I can. Therefore, every now and again, I’ll release a post on a film I’ve mentioned previously(or not). These posts won’t always be long or eloquent but they will certainly give you the gist of my thoughts and feelings concerning my experience.

**These posts can also be seen listed in the film section of the site, as well as added as a linked in the original post for the corresponding film.

When I would describe SOTY to anyone with Hindi film background, I’d gladly peg it as a mash-up of Dharma Productions’ KKHH and Yash Films’ Mohabbatein. The setting and action of the original films include a college and a set of friends, while one includes a love triangle and the other athletics and newbie actors. And though, I would still adhere to that initial descriptor, SOTY can never be set beside those as equals.

I went into this film with reasonable expectations for the simple fact that the project’s pinned by one of my favorite directors, the premise unoriginal but had the ability to be fun and entertaining, and the actors were babes barely out of the proverbial womb. Therefore, imagine my sheer disappointment that the only thing that lived up to my expectation was the latter.

Original Movie Moment: SOTY

View Date: March 2013

In a Word: Fatuous

Performance: This was the acting debut of the film’s three focal characters and it was obvious. Not necessarily glaring but green enough to give some pause. For me, the most stand out performance was by the men and the best was Siddharth Malhotra as Abhimanyu “Abhi” Singh. Granted, his character was the best written of the trio but overall, his performance was the least cringe worthy for the majority of the film. He brought a decided sincerity to Abhi and very little pretension, until the shift in his characters’ morals (which I will get to later). Varun Dhawan did a good job though, for the egotistic, rich boy womanizer with daddy issues did resonate. Thinking about it now, I probably liked his character and portrayal much more in terms of layers and character growth, but in this case, there has to be a winner and Malhotra wins in every angle of reel life.

Alia Bhatt was the biggest acting annoyance in this film. For, I believe, her Shanaya Singhania was intended to be likable enough. She was spoiled but not a complete snob. She was relentless in love but ultimately under-appreciated and scorned for by her devotion, then drastically misunderstood. Her character is mostly a product of her environment, one that I am well aware I should care for but that connection was never made. This disconnect, I adhere to Bhatt. I won’t say she was hollow, for she had at least one moment of transparent clarity but she was unable to sustain it long enough to convince me it was nothing more than a happy coincidence.

Gripe: There were several issues I had with this film from wanton and unnecessary bare-chested shots and scenes to product placed pseudo commercials. But those have little to do with the narrative and though excessive, the distasteful distraction quite possibly had more to do with personal preference than inherent film fluff. Therefore, this film’s greatest flaw was the “big misunderstanding” that ensues into a decade long feud, that never really gets a solid or believable resolution.

This film is essentially a story based on memory, set in flashback, being retold by our triangle’s college friends from a hospital waiting room, as the audience dawdle to not only unlock the mystery of our leads’ discord but also discover whom has the clout to reel them all back together for this deathbed reconciliation. Though the setup itself is trite and overdone, the events that leads to the hurt feelings and broken relationships, begins with merit then fizzles out somewhere between insolent and insipid. For, it’s not only noble idiocy or irrational assumptions but downright stupidity that creates a rift that somehow needs resurrecting ten years later and five minutes before the credits.

The film is supposed to merit the strength of friendship, the reward of “bromance,” but instead unmasks friendship’s fragility and its participants’ inferiority, then refuses to confront the subject. It’s a cop out at best but feels more like the writer isn’t mature enough himself to relay the complexities of such entanglements. The romance angle was plausible and at times heart tugging but buckled under the overarching and overreaching “conflict.” Therefore, once the story finally gets around to the heart of the problem, there’s no longer a reason to actually care about any of the characters enough to believe they should have been friends or lovers in the first place, let alone salvage their youthful bonds.

You see, what Johar’s previous college flick had going for it was the ignorance of youth, that lack of perception and experience to make the resolution and audience pining, work in it’s favor. Which not only created tension but made way for a much desired reunion. But here, the time jump is rendered useless, for it does nothing for the characters, by way of relatable emotional growth, understanding, or conceivable maturation, which kills any goodwill left for their college age counterparts. In the end, there’s only condescension and vapid posturing, which culminates in rehashing and bickering, with one lame explanation and zero apologies.

Verdict: SOTY never had the makings of a masterpiece or a blockbuster but the “rich kids befriend an orphan turned enemy” setup, always seems entertaining. Then throw in some romantic antics and I’m usually a happy camper. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case with this film at all. I won’t say it was the worst film of 2012 because I seriously doubt I’ve seen that movie, however, this was the worst project I’ve seen from Karan Johar.
But with that said, this film does live up to classic KJo with its fashion, music and sweeping fantastical style. No visual moment is dull and Rishi Kapoor‘s portrayal of the gay and lonely college headmaster was inspired. It even has its moments of Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham nostalgia, with Bhatt channeling some of Kareena Kapoor‘s, Poo. SOTY just does not deliver in the story department or the quality that a lover of his films should accept as smart cinema. Johar may not be known for the poignant but his stories usually have a point— here, I couldn’t find one.

Recommendation
: I stand by my earlier assessment that Dhawan, Bhatt and Malhotra have made a big splash with this film and can only fly higher. Overall, the film did well in the Box Office and gave them solid footing for their future endeavors. They are all promising in their own way and this film, though it wasn’t my cup of tea, hasn’t deterred me from keeping an eye out for what they may do next. With their careers so new, hopefully they will take the opportunity to experiment and stretch themselves with better projects. For this film was flashy and posh with candy coated packaging but has nothing more to offer. If you’re looking for a film with no substance or follow through, with entertaining glitz and glamour, flip this on to find out who wins student of the year.

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5 Replies to “Unni and the Box: Student of the Year”

  1. Oh you know I was going to leave my 2 cents! Out of all the bolly we have watched this one disappointed me the most! I was really expecting something more and I left with ?? in my eyes that were saying, “Really fools?! That’s why you decided not to talk to your supposed friend for 10 years! Go open a box of life.” I agreed with everything you said!

    E.

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