Movie Review: Punit Malhotra’s SOTY-2 reminds us why some Tigers are best left caged

Will Smith shows up in Student of the Year 2. In what can best be termed as a pursuit of crappiness, the veteran actor finds himself gyrating on stage in a scandalously bad remake of a Kishore Kumar song – a sequence where Vishal Dadlani watches Tiger Shroff lip sync to, well, Vishal Dadlani. We later get an electric guitar rendition of the same, lest we forget that this is a school set in 2019 and not in 1972: one where students play tug of war with a truck, do push-ups in the countryside and splash about in rivers when they are not squeezing their thighs suggestively or playing kabaddi with a chicken. Ironically enough for an educational institute named after a canonised Nobel Peace Prize laureate, it’s also a school where students pummel each other—and our collective sensibility—to the point of near death.

Any trace of dignity here exists only in the form of a Cup. This time round, it’s a ‘new batch’ with ‘new rivals’, all of whom happen to be vying with each other for ‘the biggest sporting event’ in living memory. Scantily clad cheerleaders prance about with pom poms even as Tiger tears a shoulder ligament and gets himself trapped in a cage, only to get his cheeks pinched later by a politico-like figure wearing a Gandhi cap. The sporting sequences here are genuinely outlandish—I can’t quite remember the last time a third umpire officiated in an inter-college tournament—and, in a show of commentary so perspicacious it would put Harsha Bhogle’s witticisms to shame, we get glorious one-liners like these: “Anything is possible.” “Kahaani mein sudden twist.” “History is made.” They might as well have named this movie Rodent of the Year, for all the gnawing difference it makes. If there’s one purpose director Punit Malhotra’s film serves, it’s to remind us that even stupidity can have a sequel.

The actors—if one might call them that—are insufferable. Tara Sutaria tries in vain to summon up non-existent tears while reciting lines like “I messed up. Tumhe jo bhi punishment dena hain na, de do.” Ananya Pandey’s character, meanwhile, laments at length about the declining standards at Saint Teresa’s, though she’s not exactly the kind of student who would pause to reconsider before blowing bubble gum during a school assembly. The newbie was presumably credited with a dozen lakhs each time she used the word ‘duffer’ (at one point, I lost count) and one of the most unintentionally hilarious scenes in this film is when this aficionado of dancing decides to break into a jig after just having been slapped across the face by her father. “I can’t take it anymore,” a soft voice moans in the background. Spoiler alert: neither can we.

Tiger—he of the vacuous, blank face—tries to roar, but only manages to get addressed as ‘Ro’. Every carefully honed sinew of this self-proclaimed ‘Kabaddi King’ ripples in the foreground even as rivals fall apart like marionette dolls (because “din tera tha, saal mera hoga”, in case you weren’t listening). The actor leaps from one terrace to another, pirouetting, somersaulting and caterwauling himself into every possible physical manifestation of the human body, and he occasionally takes some time off to cut a few holes into the fabric of his jeans (still lesser than the number of holes in Arshad Sayed’s script). He even likens his team to Kapil Dev’s Batch of ’83, as if referencing a bonafide Yash Raj classic as ‘Chalk De Indira’ weren’t sacrilegious enough—and the least this student (!) could have done here is to move his lips while pretending to sing in Shekhar Ravjiani’s voice.

As things stand, I prefer the biscuit over the actor for now.

The fault is not entirely in our stars. Karan Johar is to cinematic excess what red velvet is to pastries: this film, however, is a nepotism-flavoured cheesecake. One of the introductory shots, in fact, shows Tiger applying copious amounts of perfume to his meticulously chiselled self, taking care to leave no nook or cranny unmoist, while doing so. It’s a scene straight out of an Axe ad, all right, but the parallels—unintentional as they are—run far deeper in this case. For the second time in a decade, it’s worth remembering that SOTY rhymes with potty. Spray on all you want, KJo and Co. The stench lingers on.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5

Shreehari H. is a lover of films and an even greater lover of writing.

Karan JoharMovie Review