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Varun Grover doesn’t score much as a debutant director – Beyond Bollywood

Grover’s unheralded cast does a fair job, but it’s the repetitive plot, dull screenplay that saps your energies.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️ (2 / 5)

All India Rank (2024)

By Mayur Lookhar

We’ve long believed that cinema is a writer’s medium. However, the Indian film industry, including film media, has for long called it a director’s medium. So, one feels happy when a writer is also the director of a film. Come this Friday [23 February], acclaimed lyricist, screenwriter Varun Grover marks his directorial debut with All India Rank [2024].

The opening credits suggests that the film was conceived at the Screenwriter’s Lab. Many a fine plot have been refined in screen labs before finally making it to the theatres. As the title suggests, the film is about clearing competitive exams.  This genre has been explored before in Kota Factory, Aspirants (acclaimed series), and more popularly in Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Filmfare Award winning film 12th Fail (2023). Does All India Rank offer a refreshing portrayal?

Writer, first-time director Varun Grover has based his film around the familiar parental pressure theme. 

R.K. Singh [Shashi Bhushan], a divisional engineer at DOT [Department of Telecom] in Lucknow wants his son Vivek [Bodhisattva Sharma] to achieve his big IIT [Indian Institute of Technology] dream. Grover spent his adolescent years in Lucknow, and he later studied Civil Engineering at IIT, Varanasi. Is All India Rank then inspired by his personal experiences? We wouldn’t rule it out.

We don’t know about Grover, but his protagonist Vivek is a reluctant student, merely obeying the orders of his father.  He is sent to Kota (Rajasthan), a coaching hub for IIT entrance examinations. Vivek’s merely going through the motions, hoping to return home one day. The boy finds himself lost in the world of Kota. If it wasn’t for the fine company of Sarika Kumari [Samta Sudiksha], the boy would have long quit.

It’s not the familiar plot, but the largely dull screenplay that saps your energies. The writing, (dialogues) are fine, but the dull screenplay seldom builds much engagement. IIT, other competitive exam aspirants, migrant students will relate more closely, but your mere B. Com graduate reviewer, who never experienced hostel life, found it difficult to relate with the world of All India Rank.

Bodhisattva Sharma

Now if your protagonist is a confused youth, almost despising his life in Kota, how do you expect humble audiences to have much emotional connect with a Vivek? Young Bodhisattva Sharma is a fine talent, and he does a respectable job, but the dour screenplay is likely to put one to snooze. Zero interest in academics, no social skills, it doesn’t take long for Vivek to be distracted by the typical escapist tropes of hostel life – titillating magazines, buds, booze.  He is not a loser, but a confused youth.

More than Vivek, the individual struggles of his parents still grab your attention. There are millions of R.K. Singhs in this country who impose their will/dream on their children.  Much to the chagrin of the Right-Wing Ultra-Nationalists, Grover subtly instils his Left-Liberal leanings into an R.K. Singh. The mother Manju Singh [Geeta Agarwal] has an altogether different problem, one that involves a voyeuristic young boy misusing her local PCO [Public Call Office] center. One was bored by the hostel habits, then this lusty caller in Lucknow only adds to the viewer’s frustration.  Thankfully, subsequent revelations justify the presence of this lusty boy Mohit. First. 12th Fail , and now All India Rank. Phew, but isn’t Geeta Agarwal running the risk of becoming the resident mother to IIT / UPSC aspirants?

Bodhisattva Sharma, Samta Sudiksha

Bodhisattva Sharma gives a good account of his talent. So, too, young Samta Sudiksha. She wins you over with her infectious smile, and Sarika’s passion for physics. Sheeba Chaddha’s Kalpana Bundela would be a dream teacher for all IIT aspirants. Whilst IIT aspirants are the target audience, a Bundela does well to remind all that an IITian can excel in any field. The principal cast all do a commendable job, but we repeatedly call out the dull screenplay.

The few tracks are purely contextual, one of them [Noodle song] playing to fine graphics in the opening credits. Grover and his team are wise in making use of graphics in certain sequences, that play out finely. However, if the drama doesn’t bind you much, then these things are mere optics.

Varun Grover

Though just 101 minutes, All India Rank tests your patience, especially if you have to watch it at one go, like we consumed. Though a good writer, even Grover will admit that he has miles to go as a director. We hope that Grover scores a better rank in his next directorial.

Watch the video review below.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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