The sequel that nobody wanted is neither an improvement over the original nor a downgrade of it. The bar is low to begin with, and when the butter-limbed Tiger Shroff is around, it’s easily surmounted.
Karan Johar’s Student of the Year (2012) centred on an intra-school athletic competition that was placed on par with a war between nuclear powers. SOTY was crammed with slow-motion displays of epilated, chiselled bodies moulded into designer clothing (when not semi-clothed) and a series of brightly-lit songs. It worked only when it didn’t take itself seriously, which wasn’t very often. Punit Malhotra’s sequel runs even further away from frivolity, losing much of the fun of high school life in the process.
A glammed-up version of Mansoor Khan’s Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar (1992), Student of the Year 2 is a bit more grounded in reality. The main sport is the earthy discipline of kabbadi, rather than athletics, and the annual competition between the students of St Teresa has now gone inter-school.
But the stakes remain high as the middle-class Rohan (Tiger Shroff) takes on the wealthy Manav (Aditya Seal), the overachieving son of one of the school’s trustees. Rohan has entered St Teresa on a sports scholarship, in part to be close to his sweetheart Mia (Tara Sutaria). He is shown his place by the quietly ruthless Manav and Manav’s bratty sister, Shreya (Ananya Panday).
Sports are for boys and dance for girls in the movie’s neatly ordered universe. But since Tiger Shroff excels at both, he eventually gets to the point where his kabbadi skills are indistinguishable from his terpsichorean talents. Although Shroff (real age 29) is just about convincing as a fit and nimble high-school student, Aditya Seal (real age 31) is a stretch as Manav. Crowned with a distracting pompadour, Seal attempts to bridge the age gap by breathing icy menace into Manav.
Arshad Syed’s screenplay makes a fainthearted attempt to deal with the class divide between Rohan and Manav, but loses interest in the service of counting down to the climactic kaddabi battle. The love triangle between Rohan, Mia and Shreya has its moments, all delivered by the perky Ananya Panday, who is the only character at the end of 146 minutes who seems to be enjoying herself.