Why Cheat India
Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Shreya Dhanwanthary, Snighdhadeep Chatterjee
Director: Soumik Sen
The film starring Emraan Hashmi, Shreya Dhanwanthary and Snighdhadeep Chatterjee takes up a subject that is novel and immediately strikes a chord with practically anyone in India who has appeared for competitive exams.
As we all know, India is a country where clearing and scoring in competitive entrance exams of one or the other institute is the ultimate litmus test of a person’s worth. For many youngsters, it is the only shot at a decent life, so it is no surprise to see students buckle under pressure and take extreme steps.
Set in Lucknow, Why Cheat India is based on several real-life incidents culled from news reports about the rampant exam-cheating across India. The film gives us Rakesh or Rocky Singh (Emraan Hashmi), an education-shark who preys upon the insecurities of students under pressure and makes exam centers his happy hunting ground. It is also here that he finds his young recruits that are the foundation of an impressive evil empire. Rakesh, a medical entrance exam reject-turned-entrepreneur thus avenges his failure by loading the dice against a faulty system. The film attempts to hold a mirror to how deep the rot has set in and tries very hard to make a searing commentary on the state of education and lack of opportunities in the country. Also, the film aims to showcase India’s entrepreneurial reality at the ground level.
Rakesh tables questions that could well be one that several Indian students incredulously ask themselves, but have no answer to—how can one entrance exam determine their merit as students? What if they don’t clear the entrance exam?
The film’s other protagonist is Satyendra ‘Sattu’ Dubey ( Snighdadeep Chatterjee), one of the many youngsters on whom is pinned his family’s hope for a secure future. Sent to Kota, the IIT clearance capital of India for coaching Sattu is one among thousands of aspirants for whom clearing the entrance exam for top league engineering college is a ticket to heaven. A voiceover fills you in on Sattu’s background –he is the chosen one, being prepared to pay off the education loan his father has taken. And of course, there is a sister to be married off too. The stage is set. A young and impressionable Sattu clears the exams and at least briefly, becomes a local hero. But Rocky has other plans for him.
Unfortunately, though Director Soumik Sen, who’s also the writer of the film, does better than his last film Gulab Gang, he fails to turn all this wonderful material into a compelling film. Why Cheat India’s Achilles heel is its inability to infuse a powerful premise with the dramatic heft it required.
Unfortunately, the script does not rise above the research points and the writing is clumsy in parts. More often than not, there are easy and simplistic resolutions to tricky situations. The screenplay attempts to go in many directions and ends up going it goes nowhere. While trying to make the film something of a commercial potboiler and satire, Why Cheat India falls between the two stools it tries to stand upon.
This was also a story that allowed for a range of interesting and nuanced characters to perhaps bring in a breath of fresh air to the film and help add gravitas. But, most characters in the film like the upright cop, the politician, the touts are the stock characters we see in most Hindi films. For a commercial film, the dialogues are weak and you barely notice them.
In the acting department, Hashmi who can display angst and humour with a poker-faced indifference is convincing in the role of Rakesh who is shaken but never stirred. Shreya Dhanwanthary as Sattu’s sister Nupur holds her own and Chatterjee as a fresh-faced student, turns in a credible performance.
The producers, clearly have a knack of picking on interesting and intriguing subjects –their last venture Neerja and Tumhari Sulu were outstanding films but this one- alas, just about makes the grade.
However, because the film’s heart is in the right place and its observations astute, Why Cheat India is worth a watch.
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