Indignant Happy Days enthusiasts may please breathe a sigh of relief. College Days is not a Happy Days spin-off. It is a dubbed version of the Tamil film Oru Kalluriyin Kadhai, which was released three years ago.
College Days has a novel story, young actors and good music. However, this is a movie that is not overly (or even remotely) concerned about details. That, and more important, the clandestine release of the film in the city, will prove to be its undoing.
The story opens with a clamourous student re-union eight years after college, with a turnout slightly more than that of the Kumbh Mela. Before people can even catch up with one another, they discover that Satya (Arya), the most popular guy on campus, has been in a catatonic state for the past eight years, known to no one except his father and his shrink. Satya had retreated into himself on the last day of college, and stayed that way. Attempts to draw him out have only resulted in hysteric recollections of the unfinished business of wooing the girl he loved, Jyothi (Sony Agrawal).
His friends now undertake a singularly impractical (and partly oddball) exercise to bring Satya back to the present. One that is called 're-creation therapy' (notice the hyphen, please, and this is not to be confused with regression therapy), which attempts to reproduce exactly what his life was like eight years back.
Soon, with hearty, affirmative pledges of friendship, everyone (including students, principal, teachers, peon, watchman, cook) and everything (including attendance register, mess food, benches with inscribed literature intact) is rounded up, walls are repainted, roads are un-laid - everything short of bringing people back from the dead is done - for a re-run of college life. A re-run that would last a month. And maybe save a life.
A window of eight years is enough time for an entire nation's economy to undergo a thorough metamorphosis. It is also an interval protracted enough for individuals to get married, raise families (even resolve their seven-year itches if any), and even grow apart.
Yet, none of that phase-shift is captured in any of the characters. Before-after transformations are conspicuously absent. Satya's acutely serious depressive disorder is news after eight years, even to his friends, while on the other hand, people (around a couple of hundred, most of whom are not even related to him) go ahead and replicate, brick by brick, emotion by emotion, an entire set of circumstances that took place eight years ago.
What could have been an intensely dramatic and touching concept, is then caught between these two impossible exaggerations, and ends up being a bit too far-fetched. Then again, it is this very absurdity that is sometimes the stuff of melodrama and vehemence in films - a passion that aggressively roars that it is perfectly possible to (and atrociously sub-human not to) move mountains for someone who is loved.
Sadly, the roar is just a meow here. Whether it is Satya's unnamed, vague illness, or the wishy-washy 'therapy' administered to him (too late, yet it works), the potentially engaging psychological edge is not handled with much attention.
The movie's production values smack of indifference. The college scenes are none too colourful, and most of the cast appears quite uninterested in the proceedings - the supporting actors actually suppress grins when supposed to emote. And the dubbing is discernibly patchy (different voices for the same character in the same scene does not make for great entertainment).
The nicer things about the film are the lead actors. Arya has a strong screen presence and eyes that could melt an ice-cap or two. Sony Agrawal is okay as the plain and simple Jyothi. Charu Hassan, in a brief role as the psychiatrist, is predictably impressive. The music is also good, especially the background score, which gives a 'heavy' feel to the film.
If you want to leave your brains at home to enjoy a breezy romance, skip College Days. Else, rent it. Else, watch it in Tamil. Else, wait for a remake in Telugu.