Dharma Productions' Student of the Year 2, directed by Punit Malhotra is a punishment. This sequel to the entertaining 2012 film Student of the Year by Karan Johar is like being told to stand up on a bench for two-and-half hours just because you ventured into a college. A humdrum plot, a story without spark as well as sub-zero chemistry between all actors whoever and however they relate to others in the film pushes you into a fight or flight response. Much like the characters in the film.
This story though is about their costumes. Designed by Manish Malhotra with Abhishek Chandra as the pre-production assistant and Nikita Jaisinghani as the assistant costume designer—the film's style promised zing when the posters were first released. In reel life however, they are a stack of modern clothes that are seldom seen in college campuses.
But first the praise. The remixed song and dance sequence Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani performed by an agile Tiger Shroff with debutantes Ananya Panday and Tara Sutaria and a cheeky special appearance by Hollywood actor Will Smith gives us a costume moment. Aqua blue plaid trousers on Shroff and tiny red, black and midnight blue plaid skirts with some sparklers on them for the spinning girls make the dance an enjoyable, if briefly, dressing game. One girl's skirt is paired with a black top, the other's with a white shirt. The athletic dance troupe wears similar versions, colours and proportions of plaid and check patterns and it works.
What doesn't however is the assumption that by styling girls in tiny shorts or dresses and clingy athleisure—tank tops, short jackets, T-shirts and sports bras—with mid-length, blow-dried, loose hair will scream happy and hip millennial style. There are some Tommy Hilfiger bra tops and an assortment of casual-smart sneakers. Some, especially those on Ananya Panday – who plays Shreya, a shrew who turns into dew- are cool. Many however may miss these small quirky details because the overall styling is so uninspiring.
In the first SOTY, Alia Bhatt's just hatching screen presence, Varun Dhawan and Sidharth Malhotra's fire and fantasies filled up Manish Malhotra's youthfully funky costumes. It was fun to watch their wear and tear. But the sequel doesn't spell millennial style which on campuses is essentially defined by irreverence. Instead, the film attempts a linear style in imagining youth in Mussoorie-Dehradun colleges and falls flat.
It is hard to forget Johar's 1998 super hit Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, which brought global ready-to wear-brands to Hindi cinema thus mirroring the evolving aspirations of the zeitgeist and stamped Rani Mukerji, Kajol and Shah Rukh Khan as stylish college students in logo-studded athleisure. But SOTY2 fails to make that connect with what's current.
Across India, campus fashion is an un-self-conscious mix of deconstructed salwars, harem pants, caps, sunglasses, jeggings, leggings, shredded jeans, branded or not, stacked bracelets, layers of chains, fierce jewellery in jute, metal or beads, tattoos, nosepins, asymmetrical tunics, kolhapuri chappals, sneakers, cargos, T-shirts with Chinese collars, unbuttoned shirts over vests and strappy sandals. Students mix their clothes and accessories unconventionally. Rang De Basanti got this transitional, neither Indian nor Western, anxious-to-prove-oneself, vibe right. As did 3 Idiots with Kareena Kapoor's spectacles and nose ring. Farah Khan's Main Hoon Na, despite an unexceptional story was still able to lend its heroines Amrita Rao and Sushmita Sen diverse and distinct styles while Zayed Khan looked like a well-thought out style victim.
But SOTY2 misses the point entirely by creating its look from a primarily "Westernised" construct.
The boys are a better visual story than the girls. Newcomer Aditya Seal who plays the haute-hot Manav Randhawa has the potential of turning scene stealer. In looks too. But it really is Tiger Shroff's body shop that becomes the appearance core of this film.
Clothed or unclothed, rippling with ambition and anger, elastic in dance and dancerise or seductively injured after a fight, the "Tiger Body" must presumably be a unique kind of performance pressure on young impressionable dudes, college going or not. The pressure of making and baking such a body with the unwavering discipline and diet Shroff is known for is something to applaud for. But even the earnest actor who can usually make most clothes look good whether he can act or not-gets a flop wardrobe.