Going by the posters and the name alone, 10th Class might not be a great draw – you’d have to be the romantic equivalent of a pedophile to enjoy this, is the first impression you get from the name. They should’ve at least named it “Inter 2nd Year” – 10th class is too close to 9th class, and you’re setting a wrong precedent for future moviemakers who simply follow trends. This one certainly is.
However, 10th Class turns out to be a surprising revelation. Partly because most of the movie is not set in the 10th class of the lead pair anyway. And partly because the part that is indeed set in 10th class does not interest you for the romance, but for the memories it brings back of your own last days of school.
Yes, the best part of 10th Class is the 30 minutes or so that it spends depicting the lives of some kids in their last year at school. Kids in uniform, classroom rivalries, lunch periods, the constant consciousness that adoloscent co-eds have of the “other benches”, school day functions and working together, leching at neighbourhood “aunties”… the works.
It’s a feeble attempt, no doubt – let’s not get into how Mani Ratnam or Shankar would have done it. But like in the kingdom of the blind the one-eyed man is king, the very attempt to take a look into life in Class X is half the battle won, since nobody else has tried it in a long long time.
The rest of 10th Class looks like an attempt to capitalize on the potential that teenage romance appears to suddenly have at the box office, as discovered by Premiste. The story is almost parallel to that of Premiste, and the denouement is rather random – it’s like the director forcibly makes the story a tragedy since that seems to have better potential at the BO. Yes, as Premiste demonstrated. And he could not completely copy Premiste, so he gives it a random ending.
The story starts with Sandhya (Sunayana) saving Srinu (Bharat) from what looks like an accident – he is actually trying to commit suicide. She gets closer to him and falls in love with him, but he tells her he is already happily married. She is shattered, but one day discovers a diary where he’s written down his life.
The film then goes into the 10th class days of Srinu, describing his flaky and happy-go-lucky friends, his poor parents, and his sad academics. There is a brief window into school life, and then enters Anjali (Saranya), a scrubbed-clean studious girl who gets ragged by him and his pigtail friends, and despises them. It’s 101 romance from here – she hurting him, he coming to her aid in a moment of trouble, she falling in love, he avoiding her etc. By the time school ends and they all have to go their separate ways, they have just fallen in love, though they’re not talking yet.
They manage to join the same college for Intermediate, and then the muted romance sees wind hitting the sails. Most of the film is in Intermediate actually, not in 10th class. When Anjali’s parents (featuring a step-mother) leave town briefly, Srinu moves in, and they do the inevitable. And when Anjali gets pregnant, they run away.
Life hands out the truth about the real world to them very quickly, but a piece of luck gets Srinu a job, and he starts a successful career, and the films takes off in a completely new direction. They have kids, but then in a freak accident Anjali dies, and Srinu cannot take it. After several attempts to come to terms, he decides to kill himself.
10th Class has a story without focus – a teenage romance should stay a teenage romance. Instead the film drifts into a different direction altogether, and gets preachy – the first half hour and the last half hour look like a DD TV serial of the ‘80s in concept and presentation, and are almost a pain.
Then, the actual 10th class part works only because of the concept, not due to creativity. There aren’t enough small moments of school life which would lend character to the film, there isn’t enough soul. If you’ve watched a serial called Neev on DD in the late ‘80s, you’d perhaps know how school life can be brought to life.
Bharat is good as the teenager, and sad as the grown-up spouting important dialogues. Saranya is a good find. The film has been made on a shoe-string budget, and sadly, even creativity is in short supply – the second half flounders about in clichés. Some things like Srinu never visiting his doting mother for several years are arbitrary.
The film is still likely to work at the BO, since it showcases something different, albeit amatuerishly. If you like really young kids romancing, this one might be a safe bet. You’ll probably also watch the sequel, 9th Class.