If the film hadn't taken a phony moralistic high ground, it could have probably been more honest and watchable as a comedy about how to subvert the system, writes Deepa Gahlot
The problem with India’s education system is far deeper than what Why Cheat India can even attempt to get at. The extent of the rot is conveyed through a list of statistics at the end of the film, but the plot itself is merrily cynical, with the attitude that everybody is corrupt if the price is right. Our culture seems to admire the enterprising cheat more than his (or her) victim.
The sad fact also is that with reservations, capitation fee, indifferent teachers, hopelessly outdated rote-leaning methods and other hurdles, any parent with money would hire a conman like Rakesh Singh (Emraan Hashmi) to get their kid into a coveted engineering or medical college by any means; to widen the chances for a bright kid or give a duffer a leg up. Because that seat in a professional institute ensures financial security for the family.
Rakesh or “Rocky bhaiya” as admiring young men call him, failed at the engineering entrance exams himself, much to the disgust of his father, but used his sharp mind and set up a network and run a huge scam by getting bright kids to write exams for the dim ones, by fudging id cards. There are obliging cops and ministers on his payroll to get him out of jams. He knows everything about everyone, what emotional key will open what potential asset, and, as he says quoting a distant Gordon Gekko, “Greed is good”. One of his recruits is Sattu (Snigdhadeep Chatterjee), who passed the engineering entrance exam by swotting non-stop, and is convinced by a glib Rocky to see the value in making big bucks before he graduates by impersonating other students. The exam mules are offered money, luxury, booze and sex. Sattu’s story ends badly, not necessarily because it should have, but because the director wants to make a cautionary example of him.
The film, starts in grungy UP towns in the 1990s and comes up to present-day Mumbai, where, Rocky expands his racket to the much-in-demand MBA courses, and meets up again with Sattu’s sister Nupur (Shreya Dhanwanthary), who managed to make to a career in Mumbai on her own, dodging the dowry-trap marriage of the small-town girl. Now independent, she has no qualms about Rocky’s wife back home, a garrulous woman he was forced to marry.
Emraan Hashmi (also co-producer) is right in his comfort zone as the streetsmart crook; he gives Rocky a lot of swag and just a hint of melancholy to temper the wickedness. The unevenly written and choppily edited film, that actually wants to make a hero out of Rocky, could have done without that phony moralistic high ground; it could have probably been more honest and watchable as a comedy about how to subvert the system.
Why Cheat India
Directed by Soumik Sen
Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Shreya Dhanwanthary, Snigdhadeep Chatterjee and others
Rating: 2.5 stars
By Deepa Gahlot
Deepa Gahlot is one of India’s seniormost and best known entertainment journalists. A National Awardwinning film critic, Deepa has watched more movies and theatre than most people in the country. An author of several books on film and theatre, she has had an extremely successful run as head of theatre and film at the National Centre for Performing Arts, Mumbai, during which she helped nurture several original productions. For Xyngr, Deepa Gahlot reviews theatre and cinema.