If your only resource was Kirik Party you would think that college in India is a rather different proposition compared to studying in the rest of the world. At Karna’s chosen institution in Hassan there is wide-spread harassment, bullying, plagiarism and various other activities that would see most of the so-called students thrown out after a few weeks if the college was anywhere else. In the happy land of film however, all these excesses are simply high spirits and something to be encouraged while everyone goes home with a qualification despite never appearing to study a day in their lives. I’d hoped for something different in Kirik Party but it follows the same old routine as many other previous campus-based films, even at times coming precariously close to Premam with the back to back romances. However, although many of the situations are clichéd and the students follow the usual template the film itself is reasonably enjoyable. The actors do a good job of creating sympathetic characters and the Kirik Party does manage to touch on some of the unique college experiences that don’t occur at any other time in your life.
Kirik Party begins as Karna (Rakshit Shetty) and his friends start as juniors in college. They’re mainly engineering students with a few studying IT thrown in for variety, but despite their different disciplines they form a tight-knit group of friends. Almost immediately Karna falls for senior student Saanvi Joseph (Rashmika Mandanna) who is surprisingly tolerant of his initial stalking tactics – at least they’re more amusing than usual. Karna enlists his friends as co-conspirators in his pursuit of Saanvi and the romance gradually progresses to the point where Saanvi asks Karna for help to get a pregnant sex-worker to hospital. This seems as if it’s going to be a watershed moment for Karna but at the time he seems to dismiss the incident quickly and it’s not until much later in the film that he starts to think more deeply about the situation. Sadly again this revelation is nothing new, but it’s sympathetically handled and does make Karna a more likeable character. Karna’s interest in popular student Saanvi creates friction with the senior students which allows for some good comedy as the hapless seniors run up against the more organised and ruthless junior students.
The friends indulge in the usual filmi college activities; drinking, skipping class and fighting with the seniors but they do also club together to buy a car which allows them greater freedom and more opportunities for mischief. It also introduces them to a mechanic played by Achyuth Kumar who becomes a permanent fixture in their lives as he is roped in to complete engineering projects for the group. What works best in this half of the film is the easy camaraderie shown between the students who share their love of Upendra films and cool sunglasses. The romance between Karna and Saanvi is also good with a natural progression that makes sense despite their different ages. I like too that she doesn’t immediately fall for the hero, but has to be gradually convinced that there is more to Karna than a superficial glance would suggest. Rakshit Shetty does appear too old to be successful as a junior student but the rest of the group all look suitably youthful and their behaviour is certainly juvenile enough for their supposed ages. Rashmika Bandanna is a real find and is very natural in her role, creating a warm and friendly personality for Saanvi but one who comes across as strong and confident too.
In the second half the group have returned to college as seniors, and I love that this is illustrated by the friends all having grown facial hair. There are signs and posters everywhere in the background proclaiming the desirability of beards since obviously whatever fashion the seniors follow is the only possible trend for the entire college. This is one of the things about life in college that does ring true in the film, as is the complete fixation the students have on small matters while managing to be totally blasé about anything that would imply taking responsibility for their actions. For instance, Karna happily heads off on a road trip, missing weeks of his studies, without any thought of how this will affect his future or that his friends will worry about his absence. In comparison, the outcome of elections for college president is important enough to consume the group for weeks and result in bullying and intimidation tactics to make sure Karna wins.
The tables have turned in the romance stakes too. Now its Karna’s turn to be followed by a junior student who professes her love for him. Samyuktha Hegde is excellent as the happy-go-lucky Aarya who stalks Karna and repeatedly proclaims her love for the now surly and argumentative senior. The events of the first half subtly repeat while in both romances the women are looking for the different side to Karna. Rakshit Shetty is much better in the second half as the older and (possibly) wiser Karna, and he seems to be more comfortable with the characterisation too. The resolution to his own personal dilemma is also well handled and gives Karna an opportunity to mature, just as you’d expect towards the end of college.
There isn’t much time spent on the rest of the friends but they all seem to be a typical bunch of students in film-land, while Raghu Pandeshwar is fine as the college principal. The music from B. Ajaneesh Loknath is excellent and perfectly added to the narrative so that dialogue segues into songs and back into dialogue seamlessly. The songs too are catchy and fit well into the student setting, making Kirik Party more of a true musical rather than simply a film with added song and dance numbers. The action scenes are also well choreographed and apart from one brilliantly called as a cricket game are mostly of the slappy variety that seems more natural for this style of film.
Although the story and the characters don’t break any new ground, overall the film is entertaining with plenty of comedy and enough drama to keep it interesting. I would have liked more realism in the depiction of student life, but that wouldn’t have given Karna and his friends time to indulge in their various vices and ultimately that’s the whole point of the film. Kirin Party is a good, entertaining time-pass, but don’t expect anything more from Rishab Shetty’s foray into student life.