Banners: T-Series Films, Emraan Hashmi Films, Ellipsis Entertainment
Producers: Bhushan Kumar, Krishan
Kumar, Tanuj Garg, Atul Kasbekar, Parveen Hashmi
Director: Soumik Sen
Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Shreya Dhanwanthary, Snigdhadeep Chatterjee
Writers: Soumik Sen, Juhi Saklani, Mishkka Shekhawat (Dialogue)
Music: Guru Randhawa, Rochak Kohli, Krsna Solo, Kunaal-Rangon, Agnee, Soumik Sen
A year and half ago, a film titled Hindi Medium hit the big screen, shining the spotlight on the fractured Indian education system. What worked in its favour was smart writing interspersed with lots of crackling humour.
Cut to 2019. After much delay, Why Cheat India finally hits the screens, stirring questions much like its title. Is it important for cinema to convey a social message to be relevant? If so, where does entertainment figure in the scheme of things? Does mere presentation of facts qualify as decent writing? Making a film on the education mafia that plagues our country is a brave idea. But what appears like a stupendous idea may not translate into a good screenplay and looks terrible on the big screen.
The film opens with Satyendra aka Sattu, a student living as a paying guest in a shabby little house in Kota, the coaching hub of India. An aspiring engineer, he is seen preparing himself, day in and day out, to crack his entrance exams. However, the real struggle begins once he secures the 287th rank and enrols in a reputed engineering college in Kanpur.
Enter Rakesh Singh, also known as Rocky, who lures Sattu to turn into a proxy examinee for all the academically weak but financially privileged students who aspire to be engineers. One thing leads to another until Rocky is embroiled in a major education scam. This, in a nutshell, is the crux of the film.
To start with, the film is badly edited. Compounding that is the fact that there are so many events unfolding that it is difficult to keep tabs on them. Also, the second half is stretched and eliminating the songs would have been a smart choice. Though forgettable, there is a romantic track, a ‘ghazal’ number and a wedding song, all of which disrupt the flow of the narrative. The sequence where Rocky is crooning a ghazal and playing a harmonium is unintentionally funny. Strangely, there is not even a tiny bit in the song that has the tune of the instrument.
First, Soumik Sen once again proves that he has a long way to go as a director (remember Gulaab Gang?) and to make matters worse is the inconsistent writing. Sometimes, the writing is so flat, lazy and sloppy that you cannot help but concentrate on things like the tub of popcorn beside you and Emraan Hashmi’s unwrinkled shirts. There are a few moments, however, where the writing picks up, cracks you up and strikes gold. Some of Rocky’s straight-faced one-liners amid a serious situation are a treat. An unpredictable twist in the end will leave you startled. We wish there were more of those in the film.
The film is set in the early 2000s and is largely shot in various parts of Uttar Pradesh such as Kanpur, Gorakhpur, Bareilly and Agra. Y Alphonse Roy’s lenses capture the essence of these small towns with aplomb. The narrow alleyways, humble and cosy homes, shabby office cubicles and the rising café culture immediately hit home.
While a few characters are well sketched, a sappy and sentimental story to back Rocky’s greed for money and power dilutes his charisma. Guess whitewashing the protagonists is a trend we are not willing to give up any time soon! What could have turned out to be yet another memorable grey character portrayal has turned out to be a run-of-the-mill role. Again, the reason is the way it has been written and presented on celluloid.
Performance-wise, Emraan Hashmi as Rocky delivers a solid performance. His signature smirk, cockiness and wilful attitude win the show. In both, the stern scenes and the lighter ones, he is impressive. It is a sheer delight to watch him in a different avatar. Debutante Shreya Dhawanthary as Nupur, Rocky’s love interest, looks promising. She manages to leave an impact. Snigdhadeep Chatterjee as the reticent and vulnerable Sattu plays his part earnestly. The rest of the cast pull decent performances.