We’re young and we’re crayzay, and sexism is amayzay.
Welcome to Dharma Productions’ latest college saga. Considering this particular company knows as much about colleges as Narendra Modi does about the history of plastic surgery, we have to begin by recalibrating our expectations. For example, do not expect shirts to stay on UFO Tiger Shroff’s body and expect people to speak like Instagram inspirational posts that go ‘in a world full of desi ghee, b almond butter, cuz no one can afford U’.
Which brings us to the most crucial aspect of this world: women exist, but only as pretty admirers of male biceps, designer nurses for the male ego and projects to engage men who I’m guessing occasionally tire of flexing their muscles and playing out their #BrosAreComing #GameOfShavedChests drama.
Keeping with this sacred tradition of treating women like the heart-eyed emoji, Student Of The Year 2 introduces its viewers to two women. The first is Mridula, played by the spunky dancer that Tara Sutaria is. Mridula and Rohan (played by Tiger Shroff) are childhood sweethearts. With age, Mridula probably realises that she’d have little use of a boyfriend who spends most of his time being suspended like PM 2.5 in Delhi’s air and tries to move on with a new life.
But exactly like PM 2.5 in Delhi’s air, said boyfriend has no intention of leaving her alone and follows her to her new college. There, she finds Manav (played by Aditya Seal), whose hair game is way stronger than Rohan’s and also he owns a pub.
“Now since Mridula is a woman in a Dharma Productions college film, she has to be both posh, flimsy and boring, like a kale chip”
Now since Mridula is a woman in a Dharma Productions college film, she has to be both posh, flimsy and boring, like a kale chip. So she changes her name to Mia and makes eyes at the hot boy in college. While in real life (or a movie that actually wants to appear realistic), all this may be perfectly normal teenage childishness, the film has to juxtapose it with Rohan’s tragic Lover India character, insisting she is shallow and wrong to have wanted to move on. In what seems like a punishment for wanting to dump the ‘hero’, the film keeps making her character run back weeping, whining and profusely apologising to Shroff. As a result, the only expression that Sutaria gets to have on her face is eerily similar to Anna Hazare giving melancholic soundbites on Lokpal on his zillionth fast.
“The only expression that Sutaria gets to have on her face is eerily similar to Anna Hazare giving melancholic soundbites on Lokpal on his zillionth fast.”
In fact, that is perhaps SOTY 2’s most infuriating crime. It shows two ambitious women who are somehow unable to attain those ambitions without a man. The film makes Sutaria’s character grovel for that one thing — having ambition. Her character is shown to be dumb, easily manipulated, needy and in constant need of a male chaperon. It’s like the incels of the world made a wish — for a caricature of a woman who’d fit right into their imaginary world — and Dharma Productions granted it.
“It’s like the incels of the world made a wish — for a caricature of a woman who’d fit right into their imaginary world — and Dharma Productions granted it.”
Then there’s Shreya, played by the beautiful Ananya Panday. Her character brief was probably ‘Main Mean Girl Tere Angaan Ki’ and hence she gets to be Nicki Minaj in college on the condition that she goes back home and turns into a Nirupa Roy in athleisure. Like Mridula, she also wants to win a dance competition—the people in make-belief Dehra Dun talk about this competition in the tone right-wing trolls reserve for the surgical strike. However, for some reason, she also needs Rohan to ‘help’ her win it. Shreya has a father who is physically violent to her and somehow the film treats that bit as dismissively as it treats Tiger Shroff’s shirt. No shirt? #ChillBro. Violent father who hits daughter in public? #KabhiKhushiKabhiTragedy
Finally, when Shreya does win a dance competition, somehow the brute father sees sense when Rohan lands at his house and gives him a lecture on parenting. Mard bonding > parenting.
Given that Rohan is the Amazon Prime of everything a woman may possibly need in her life, the girls end up squabbling over him. There are multiple dignified exchanges between the women—these include throwing hot coffee at each other and shrieking ‘who do you think you are haaaan’. While the poor man tries to calm them down.
Then when Alia Bhatt appears during the credits exhorting Shroff to le le her number, one realises the shoddy treatment meted out to her character by Karan Johar himself in Student of the Year, something that seems to have gotten buried under the stellar work that Bhatt did consequently. Pretty much the brightest actor in that lot, Bhatt too was reduced to being a pretty faced attention seeker in constant need of validation from men.
SOTY 2 has a five-minute cameo by Gul Panag who plays an athletics coach. In a ploy as effective, useful and deep as an “I am a Feminist” tee shirt, the film makes her one half of a lesbian couple as well. Now, the makers probably hoped we’d wokegasm in unison, but alas, that’s as distant a dream as seeing one whole expression on Tiger Shroff’s face.
That’s cause the film’s favourite insults are the following: princess, gudiya and a man’s name contorted to sound like a girl’s. Why, you ask?
Coz we’re young and we’re crayzay, and sexism is amayzay.
Every week, the writer will examine how women are treated in a work of popular culture.