The teen spirit that runs through Student Of The Year should have lent the film a bright and fresh feel. It doesn?t.
Every little element here, from the story and the setting to the music and the packaging, is an acknowledged nod to mothballed Hindi cinema conventions. Student of the Year reeks of overwhelming creative vacuity.
But Karan Johar?s latest film is zestful and frothy enough to appeal to an audience that does not seek much more than some harmless fun from two-and-a-half hours in a darkened hall.
It offers nothing new or inspired and yet, for those that delight in fluff, it might even feel like a breezy entertainer.
Student Of The Year is an updated rehash of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, the mushy love triangle that KJo made his directorial debut with a decade and a half ago. To tailor it for the times, he throws in mild twists (including stale gay gags borrowed from Dostana and the like) for good measure.
Set on a campus that is as rooted in reality as snowfall would be in the Sahara, this high school musical, sports film and candy floss love story rolled into one is about two buddies whose ties of friendship are stretched to snapping point by the small matter of a shot at the student of the year trophy and the wavering affection of the most popular girl in the institution.
Saint Teresa High is like nothing you would ever see in the real world. The institution?s motto is ?Academics, Art and Athletics?, but its teaching faculty is rarely seen and textbooks are the last thing on the minds of the pupils.
The batch of 2012 is armed with the latest gizmos, drives flashy Ferraris and two-wheelers and sports the latest designer outfits. The girls wear the skimpiest of clothes and the boys do the shirtless act at the drop of a hat.
They jive, rap, sing, prance around the place and hunt for partners, sexual orientation no bar, to the accompaniment of remixed retro film music.
And when they aren?t doing all that, they swim, bike, play football and go gaga over a treasure hunt to stay away from the one thing they should logically be focusing on ? their studies.
Cast your mind back to the trio of Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol and Rani Mukherji and compare the shenanigans of the students of Student of the Year with what you saw in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. The only difference you might spot here would be in the faces ? and of course the sculpted bodies of the two male leads.
The two new hunks are Siddharth Malhotra and Varun Dhawan and the object of their passion is Alia Bhatt. An eager bunch of students these, they are unlikely to set new benchmarks for those that will follow them into the business of selling dreams that begin with a robust song, meander through miles of woolly-headed dreams and end with sweet nothings.
One of the two guys, ambitious middle class boy Abhimanyu Singh, squares off against his campus foe-turned-pal, Rohan Nanda, an incorrigible philanderer who has no interest in his industrialist-dad?s riches and wants to be a rockstar. The latter?s childhood sweetheart, Shanaya Singhania, is a girl who is easy to fall in love with. And therein lies the rub.
Abhimanyu develops a soft spot for Shanaya, who appears to reciprocate. Many recriminations later, the two boys realize that there are more important things in life to take care of. So they dance some more.
In terms of natural screen presence, neither Malhotra nor Dhawan is a patch on SRK. Nor is Alia Bhatt a replica of either Kajol or Rani as far as natural flair goes. So every time they appear on screen, they need the support of heightened physical gestures, ear-splitting music and elaborate dance routines to make their presence felt.
Be that as it may, the first-time actors are enthusiastic enough to make a fair fist of carrying the thin storyline forward without letting the effort weigh them down too much. If only the screenplay wasn?t quite so devoid of imagination.
The members of the supporting cast, led by Rishi Kapoor as a gay and garrulous high school principal who nurses a secret yearning for the school's married coach (Ronit Roy), do their best to bolster this bubblegum romance, but given a screenplay loaded with runaway inanities, they are left puffing and panting without getting anywhere.
That is Student Of The Year for you. It definitely isn?t the film of the year. But if you like your entertainment to be served up with glitzy but pulpy garnishing, pirouette your way to the nearest screen by all means. If you don?t, go for it only if your life depends on it.