Tag Archives: Aditya Seal

Movie Review: Student of the Year 2 (2019)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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With an opening scene that features hundreds of students celebrating the start of an intercollegiate competition by chanting, “Student! Student!”, it’s clear that Student of the Year 2 (“SOTY2” henceforth) is not meant to be intellectually challenging. Nevertheless, the romantic comedy-drama sequel is plenty of fun, with some surprisingly rich character development.

Though not a direct sequel to 2012’s Student of the Year, SOTY2 is made in the same narrative mold as the first: a low-income university student competes against his well-heeled contemporaries for respect and the love of a pretty girl. While the original SOTY launched the careers of three newcomers who would become big stars — Alia Bhatt, Varun Dhawan, and Sidharth Malhotra — SOTY2 is star Tiger Shroff’s sixth leading role.

This time Shroff plays Rohan, a working class student at the underfunded Pishorilal Chamandas College where he excels at the sport kabaddi. His wealthy childhood sweetheart Mridula (Tara Sutaria) attends hoity-toity St. Teresa’s College. Without telling Mridula about his plan, Rohan gets an athletic scholarship and transfers to St. Teresa’s to be closer to her.

Rohan is a fish out of water at his new school, where everyone wears designer clothes and drives sports cars. He’s no longer the best athlete, with that distinction belonging to Manav (Aditya Seal), the reigning intercollegiate Student of the Year titleholder. Rohan makes an enemy of Manav’s snobby, vindictive sister Shreya (Ananya Panday, daughter of actor Chunky Pandey). Even Mridula — who goes by “Mia” on campus — acts less than thrilled to see poor Rohan on her fancy turf.

While Rohan could find a place at St. Teresa’s as one of Manav’s toadies, that won’t impress Mridula. What starts out as a good-natured rivalry between the two campus studs changes when Manav realizes Rohan’s ambitions, and Manav reminds Rohan of the hierarchy in the harshest way possible. But Rohan finds an unexpected ally in Shreya, who’s tired of living in her brother’s shadow. Maybe Rohan’s been trying to impress the wrong woman.

Though Shroff is typically drawn to action movies, he’s more charming in a lighter role like this that requires some self-awareness. Shroff nicely depicts Rohan’s struggle to fit in, as well as his realization that he should’ve been kinder to his peers back when he was Big Man on Campus at his old college.

Shreya’s character development is even more impressive than Rohan’s. She evolves from spoiled and aloof to generous and kind, as Rohan learns more about her troubled home life, while still keeping the core of her character intact. Her instinct to respond to slights with cattiness never changes, but she begins to curb her impulsiveness. One would never guess that this is Panday’s first feature role, she’s that good.

This is also Sutaria’s first feature role, having started her career in television. She doesn’t quite match the charisma of Shroff or Panday, but her character isn’t as deep as either of theirs. Mridula is written as shallow and fickle, which doesn’t leave Sutaria much room to maneuver.

Manav is also one-note — a rich bully from start to finish. Seal has to deliver dopey lines with a straight face, such as the multiple times Manav calls Rohan “loser of the year.” On the positive side, Seal and Sutaria are the best dancers of the lead quartet.

The film’s dance numbers are fun and impressive in scale, although they do have some weird elements. Will Smith strolls across the stage during one song for absolutely no reason. A couple of numbers feature a bunch of white women in cheerleader outfits, which stands out because there aren’t any non-Indian male students at St. Teresa. Also, one of my friends was crushed to discover that “Mumbai Dilli Di Kudiyaan” was just released for promotional purposes and wasn’t actually in the movie.

SOTY2 also has a lot of kabaddi scenes, which are sort of exciting, but I didn’t come out of the film understanding anything more about the rules than I did going in. (Although I was delighted to learn that you’re allowed to kick people in kabaddi.) There are also some unrealistic track and field sequences that have slow-motion shots of Manav turning to stare at Rohan in the middle of a race and looking aghast. As the leadoff runner for Westmont High School’s state-qualifying 800-meter medley relay team in 1994, I can assure you that there isn’t time for such theatrics during a sprint.

Then again, the whole premise of the Student of the Year competition is ridiculous to begin with. It’s only available to male students, there’s no academic component, and it only features two events — one of which is a team sport. Points are accrued by school, not by individual, yet the final award is given to a single participant. It’s pretty dumb if you think about it, so better to just enjoy Student of the Year 2 for its lavish dance numbers and Ananya Panday’s promising debut.

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Movie Review: Purani Jeans (2014)

PuraniJeans2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Purani Jeans (“Old Jeans“) compares friendship to that pair of broken-in blue jeans in your closet that make you feel your most comfortable. However, the friendships depicted in the film are fraught with complicated emotions, as adulthood is forced upon five reluctant young men.

The Kasauli Cowboys are a quintet of early twenty-somethings who live in a picturesque mountain town. They have a clubhouse and wear matching cowboy hats. They have a list of friendship rules, one of which is, inexplicably: “Always marry a virgin.”

The quintet comprises two leaders and three peripheral members, easily distinguishable by their physical characteristics: rotund Tino (Kashyap Kapoor), scrawny Suzy (Raghav Raj Kakker), and musclebound Bobby (Param Baidwaan). Sid (Tanuj Virwani), the film’s narrator, is the poet of the group and its unofficial vice president.

Hip rich kid Sam (Aditya Seal) is the Cowboy’s acknowledged leader. He brings back cool presents and far-fetched stories of romantic conquests from his trips abroad. He has a guitar and a Jim Morrison fixation. Sid — Sam’s only true peer — is his best friend.

Even with foreign colleges and day jobs looming just over the horizon, the Cowboys seem reluctant to admit that their carefree childhood is coming to an end. They yell, “Friends forever!” in unison more often than any actual group of young men would. Their Peter Pan existence is rocked by the usual culprits: girls.

Tino and Suzy both like Roxy, the blonde exchange student. Bobby gets overly involved with Aisha. And Sid and Sam both fall for Nayantara (Izabelle Leite), the pretty new girl in town.

Sam employees still all-too-typical Bollywood hero tactics while wooing Nayantara: he carves her name into his arm with a knife and threatens to kill himself if she doesn’t accompany him. What sets Purani Jeans apart is that these tactics don’t work. Nayantara prefers Sid’s less dramatic approach. She’s so upset by Sam’s tactics that she begs Sid to tell his friend about their relationship as way of getting Sam to back off.

The film is progressive about relationship issues in other ways. There’s a crisis involving Aisha and Bobby, and the Cowboys stand by Aisha at Bobby’s expense. Sam’s actions are framed within a context of mental illness, not just attributed to boys-will-be-boys behavior.

Besides some progressive stances, Purani Jeans is a fairly predictable Bollywood coming-of-age film. There are fights and reunions, and there are way too many songs about friendship and partying. The performances are good, although everyone talks too fast. While not exactly ground-breaking, the movie nudges the genre in a more modern direction.

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