When I was 15 years old watching Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (KKHH) when it was released in 1998, I remember being paralyzed by the main characters and their story: a scruffy and disheveled Anjali and her best friend, the college student, Rahul. Their friendship becomes a love story, and they meet, eight years later. For much of my childhood and adulthood, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai made me believe in a forever love that is rooted in friendship (and I still do!).
Considering the cult status of the movie, it’s safe to say that I was not the only one who felt that way. An inseparable duo and the classic Bollywood premise of “Pyar Dosti Hai” made both young and old do it. Karan Johar’s directorial debut had the “great” factor and a profitable and winning formula that he would employ over the years.
Progressively amplifying the glam factor, but unfortunately, losing the plot.
We have seen flashes of the dazzling student life at the 2001 release of Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (K3G). Against the backdrop of a family drama, the film presents the history and love story of Rohan Raichand at the university, which is still understandable. With the launch of Student of the Year 2012 (SOTY), Johar has established his experience in everything related to “students” and in the description of an aspirational university life.
In their utopian world, students have perfectly chiseled bodies, children drive around the campus in an elegant set of wheels, sports designer clothes for girls (Alia Bhatt, like Shanaya Singhania, makes her entrance with a song that recites all the brands who loves) and students demonstrate their worth with inconsequential skills that in no way have a meaning in the real world.
The sequel, Student of Year 2 (SOTY 2) arrives seven years later, but looks and feels like the original, on steroids. Add some flying kicks, Kabaddi matches, two debutants competing for the hero’s attention … and you have SOTY 2.
Even if, for a minute, he considers these films as “light and windy entertainment” or a source of escapism, it becomes difficult to give up the messages that the franchise embodies, especially for teenagers and young adults.
When the pressure to fit in is already paramount, the SOTY franchise pushes a narrative that equates material wealth with popularity and fame. Talk to the young people of the urban area and they will tell you why they want to have a pair of Louis Vuitton or Manolo Blahniks, tell them about their university preferences and a mention of top-level universities (read glamorous) got into the conversation.
However, the biggest problem with the franchise is that it sexualizes and objectifies university students.
In his introductory song ‘Kukkad’, Sidharth Malhotra as Abhimanyu Singh pours water over his head after a basketball game. The camera zooms in as the water drips on her chiseled abs and, in the foreground, the college girls throw themselves around her and exclaim: “Oh my God!”
In the same song, a 19-year-old Alia Bhatt like Shanaya Singhania, dances in lingerie.
I will call your subtle predecessor, because SOTY 2 pushes the envelope on these problematic messages. Sexualizing women is all too common in Bollywood, but equally disturbing is the SOTY 2 objectification of the male protagonist, Rohan Sachdev, played by Tiger Shroff. With several action scenes and bare-chested songs, Shroff serves a wide dose of “sweet eyes.”
In the 3:05 minute trailer, I lost the number of times you can see a shirtless Shroff dancing, kicking, spinning, performing acrobatics or just spraying a deodorant. The viral songs (‘The Hook Up song’ and ‘Mumbai Dilli di Kudiyaan’) have it without a shirt or with an unbuttoned shirt.
I wonder if Dharma Productions is using the sexual appeal of Shroff’s chiseled abs or machismo to sell us a movie that has no argument or logic.
You might ask, “Well, how does it differ from a shirtless Salman Khan who says” OO jane jaana “or Hrithik Roshan in the 2000s?” There is a difference: in the age of content consumption, young people have access to much more. Resources Their impressionable minds are actively shaped by Bollywood and popular culture. Interestingly, Shroff won a GQ Youth Icon title in 2016 and enjoys immense popularity among young people.
It gives children the wrong message that they should look a certain way, meet bodily standards or unrealistic masculinity to succeed in college and in life.
Second, after the #MeToo conversations, it becomes imperative to teach young men and women that it is not okay to object, harass or assault women and men. Shroff’s sexualization, combined with lyrics like “Soniya, hole is chal zara, fursat is main taad loon”, (in the song “Jatt Ludhiyane Da” with Tara Sutaria in his serenade) reinforces the narrative that is fine so that Women have fun and sexualize men.
In a utopian situation, I would prefer to see a safer world for my young sisters, brothers, cousins, nieces and nephews, instead of the idealistic and glamorous life that Dharma Productions wants us to aspire to.