Tejas Nair | January 19, 2019
Rating – 3/10
Education is a lucrative market in India and most people both associated and affected by it know that. Unfortunately, amateur director Soumik Sen’s drama Why Cheat India does not impress despite having its lead actor deliver one of his career’s finest performances.
Previously known as the resident Bollywood serial-kisser, Emraan Hashmi has completely shed his loverboy threads and dresses up as an unscrupulous and sharp-toothed businessman in Why Cheat India. He plays an “examination facilitator” who – along with his small team – exploits the talent and brains of studious, rank-earning students to help those who are not (but whose parents have very deep pockets) crack entrance exams in various streams. What this unabashed exploitation does to all the parties involved is what director Sen highlights in his two-hour long repellent drama that walks on a tight rope with help only from his talented cast.
The largely insensible plot constantly tries to exonerate its lead character’s actions by blaming the system. The plot repetitively shows how Hashmi’s character uses his smart moves and political influence to “help” poor-rich students get a seat in the colleges of their choice while not paying heed to the risk that might befall the bright students who are helping him. The drama does make an effort to show what happens to these students, but I am not at all convinced with its plastic outlining. It is all too easy – or so it is shown – for Hashmi’s character to pull things off, which is repeated till just before the end credits, making you feel like cheated of both money and time. And that is something you don’t expect after watching a film about examination cheating.
But to give Why Cheat India some credit, it is interesting to see what goes behind the closed curtains in all those news stories that we read about question papers leaking and cheating racket being busted. There’s some insider knowledge poured into the screenplay but even that does not make the film any interesting for its discerning audience. Thankfully, there’s no side arcs that the main plot deviates to, concentrating all its focus on the single concept, which Hashmi’s character frequently reminds you, he is a master of.
If we ignore such few smart-aleck actions from him, we can completely appreciate Hashmi’s role and performance as this confident, fearless businessman. His glamorous appearance – all suave and shaven – is probably the best thing about Why Cheat India, entertaining his fans with rapt dialogues and mesmerizing expressions throughout. He is confident in his character and really shows that he cares for his first production venture. It wouldn’t be fair for this review if I don’t mention how magnificently entertaining Manuj Sharma is here, not only making you laugh but playing the role of a sidekick in all its glory. Previously seen in Secret Superstar (2017) and indie crime drama Ajji (2017), he adorns each and every sequence he is in like a cherry-top, only second to Hashmi. Newcomer Shreya Dhanwanthary and her supporting cast all do a great job at enacting the roles without letting the shoddy writing affect them.
A little bit of respite is further brought in by occasional humour and a few sequences involving corruption in the system. It’s enjoyable to some extent, but it also throws light into another big problem in the film: Why Cheat India has been made like a B-grade drama that has everything it could ask for (an item number, plenty of stereotypes, and a few more useless songs). All of which definitely does not propel its appeal to modern viewers who are tired of watching this enactment of tried and test formulas. Moreover, for a film that demands high attention to details, director Sen directs his supporting cast like a blind man. There are conspicuous errors in the sequences involving extras who are unintentionally laughing, looking at the camera, and just not “in” the scene – further validating my point about the B-gradedness. Even the courtroom sequence towards the end is made to look like a conversation between two people, which eventually turns into a sermon, all the while showing the judge take forty winks. Might have been a reference to how real-life courtroom dramas unfold in India, considering how the film often takes potshots at the Modi government, but it still looks out of place and unreliable.
Why Cheat India could have been a lot better had it focused one or two real-life episodes and really delved into its deepest point rather than just summarizing how the anti-education industry looks like. As it is now, there’s no reason for you to waste your time on this.
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