When you’ve signed up for the second edition of the airheaded franchise that revolves around Karan Johar’s interpretation of campus customs and couture, your expectations are in check. This one culminates in a sports film, which could be slotted as Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar meets Riverdale meets Dehradun Fashion Week. There’s just something winning about a man with modest means, forcing his privileged adversary to eat dust — the tested formula SOTY2 leans on rather blatantly and excessively.
The Archie Andrews with sixteen packs in this film is Rohan Sehgal (Tiger Shroff), a lovelorn student of Pishorilal Chamandas College in Mussoorie whose twinkle, Mridula (Tara Sutaria) has moved to the elite St Theresa College in Dehradun. While he follows her like the pup from that telecom commercial, she’s now off petting. With the self-assigned name of Mia, she now has the hots for college champ Manav (Aditya Seal channelling Deepak Tijori). Then there’s Manav’s sister, Shreya (Ananya Panday), who packs in every cliché associated with that ‘poor little rich girl’ — nasty like no other, calculatedly cunning, perennially aggro and yet, someone who overcompensates for her loneliness by pulling down her peers. She also shares that her dad calls her “manhoos” because her mother couldn’t survive her birth. Wouldn’t that qualify as TMI if not a line that regresses us back by a century?
The film takes a turn when Rohan is rusticated from St Theresa’s for unruly behaviour and predictably, it happens to be Manav’s doing. Returning to his humble college, Rohan’s life finally has a mission that doesn’t involve one of the lead actresses — taking down Manav. Luckily, there’s just enough time to prep for the forthcoming Dignity Cup — an inter-collegiate sporting competition that also plays a decisive role in zero-ing in on the Student of the Year — a coveted trophy awarded to the best performer. Unsurprisingly, the rest of the film writes itself.
A parkour pro who bolts like Usain with a body that could well assist anatomical studies, it’s shocking that Shroff hasn’t been put together in a laboratory. As an actor too, he has come a distance from the poker-faced lead in Heropanti. But director Punit Malhotra uses Shroff for his strengths — making him twirl on the dance floor and the basketball court too, ensuring his biceps bulge at the precise point when he’s about a land a jab and even getting him to nail the high kicks with precision. Of the two debutantes, Panday manages to infuse her Shreya with a tinge of humour, while Sutaria could be replaced by a cut-out with Velcro that Shroff could’ve hung from his biceps. Playing the bad boy from the good school, Seal is convincing even though his character is limiting. From the soundtrack, the remixed version of Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani seems to retain the mood and mayhem of the original but the rock version seems off-tempo and doesn’t cut it in the sequence it has been punched with.
Helming the second in the franchise that catapulted the careers of Alia Bhatt, Sidharth Malhotra and Varun Dhawan, would surely come with great responsibility. But Malhotra plays it on the back-foot, hoping to crack it with a formulaic plot and clichéd characters that barely go beyond the call of duty. Perhaps, it’s time for the makers to return to film school?