If this is the kind of movie you like, you will like this movie. It was never going to be great realistic drama, it was always going to be light and fluffy. But if you are capable of enjoying light and fluffy films, this is one of the better ones.
I went into this knowing that it would be a light silly movie about light silly things. And it was! But at the same time, it was also a much better movie than I expected. The plot took some twists that weren’t obvious, the actors were legitimately entertaining (I’m not saying great performances, but then it didn’t require great performances), the songs were great, and there was Will Smith! I’m not saying everybody should watch it, but if you enjoyed 2 States, or I Hate Luv Storys, or Mujshe Dosti Karoge, or (of course) Student of the Year 1, you will like this movie. It is a good example of the genre to which it belongs.
There’s loads of things I could make fun of with this movie, but then they aren’t trying to NOT have us make fun of them. It’s like when I wear a bright orange skirt with a bright purple top and a big pink hat. If someone says “ha-ha, you are wearing many bright colors together”, I will go “yes, and….?” because obviously I did that on purpose because I like bright colors together.
Tiger and Aditya Seal are obviously way too old to go to high school, but so what? The filmmakers know that, we know that, they want the audience to see hunky men with developed muscles and superior fight scenes so they bend reality. The love stories are simple and superficial, everyone is aware, but they wanted a strong simple storyline so that the details of the romance wouldn’t overwhelm the rest of it. And the acting is over the top and stylized, but again, that’s the idea. This is the kind of acting, and kind of characters, that I can picture small children and middle-schoolers acting out after the movie, debating which “team” they are on over school lunches, basically the animated fairy tale version of a plot and a performance. Heck, Kabaddi is the big important all consuming sport for this exclusive high school, that’s also hilarious, but who cares? This is a movie for an Indian audience and they wanted a simple game the audience would all know, plus Kabaddi is a fun sport to film, plus it let them experiment with weird wrestling moves and leaps and spins. All the silly stuff is there for a purpose, to help us enjoy the movie more.
And I did enjoy the movie! I really really did! There was nothing in it that made me go “ouch, that’s a rough spot”. The heroines each did a good job, as good as Tiger and Aditya Seal. And yes, the acting requirements were dumbed down for them all, but with what they were given, they did good. Ananya especially, her character has a lot of the best lines, and she nailed them. Not that they were that deep, or even that good lines, but she said them well, she put in the work and she cared about it. And she does have a spark onscreen, it’s true. Tara Sutaria was good too, she had less dialogue which made her character harder to capture, but she struggled along with face acting okay. And Tiger was not asked to go any farther than he could manage, he has a natural charisma onscreen that can cover a lot of sins, plus of course his dancing ability and fight scenes. The plot was very tight and clear, the characters got layers and depth in an appropriate speed and manner, everything made sense with no awkward leaps and jitters. The costumes were ridiculous but fun, so were the sets, so were the performances around the three leads too. Everything was set to 11 (as it were) in a very conscious and entertaining way.
To give you an example of the “11” setting, everywhere on the St. Teresa’s campus, literally everywhere, you see the name “St. Teresa’s”. They must have told the set designers to go over the top with it, make it look like a designer label on clothing kind of thing. It goes beyond “ha-ha, they’re so stupid” and into the realm of “no, they are being stupid-clever”. Along the same lines, all the cheerleaders at St. Teresa’s are white. Again, it’s ridiculous, but it’s also over the line into “we don’t care, these aren’t really cheerleaders for an Indian high school, these are sexy white women for our silly movie and everyone knows it”. If they hadn’t turned it up like that, the movie as a whole wouldn’t have worked as well. We need all the silliness to make us able to enjoy the simple plot at the center of it, the fun dance numbers, all the rest.
The one flaw, for me, is that Ananya’s character falls into a the sort of “Poo” dynamic that I think Indian returns to too much when they are trying to do a “sexy saucy young woman” character. Preity in Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, Alia in SOTY 1, Kareena in Mujshe Dosti Karoge, it’s like being just nasty to everyone is empowering and “cool”. This film gives a background for it and redeems her character, but I still feel like they thought I would enjoy her nastiness, yelling at people and playing mean pranks, in a way that I just didn’t. On the other hand, the film also never punishes her for her behavior and (most importantly), the hero never “cures” her of it.
Tara’s character gets slightly short shrift, but that feels less like Ananya getting an outsize role and more like last minute editing. Tara gets a decent amount of time in the first half and has a solid character arch, a really interesting one. But the second half in general feels like they slashed scenes. Ananya’s part is more important in the second half so they had to give her more time, but Tara goes down to the bare minimum. They even cut the wedding song, “Mumbai Dilli Di Kudiyan”, which would have done a lot of development for both Tara and Ananya’s storylines at that point. It must have been a last minute cut, because they left in a scene setting it up (a character gives Tiger a card for his wedding), and then no song.
That’s maybe the roughest bit of the film, that the resolution on their stories feels a little rushed as though one or two scenes were removed. But if you make a movie and the worst bit, the only bit that doesn’t quite work, is a few sped up developments towards the finale, that is still a really solid film.
That’s what this movie is, solid. Good direction, good editing, competent performances, fun set design and costume design, catchy songs, and a script with absolutely no gaps or holes in the plot. There may be other films with high ambitions, greater talents involved, and so on. But there is nothing to be ashamed of in making a good solid little film that achieves it’s goals, and nothing to be ashamed of in enjoying it either.