Set on a sprawling Delhi campus where students spend the bulk of their time attending drama rehearsals or dancing merrily in the corridors, Always Kabhi Kabhi directed by Roshan Abbas channels those breezy High School Musical movies…but alas this film doesn’t have the infectious charm of those feel-good Disney entertainers.

The kids in this film are your usual stereotypes: you have the resident nerd (played by Satyajeet Dubey), the firebrand (played by Zoa Morani), the charmer (played by Ali Fazal), and the pretty new head-turner (played by Giselle Monteiro). There’s little by way of plot here – the school’s putting up a production of Romeo & Juliet, and our four leads sign up for assorted duties. Alongside we get a glimpse of their troubled home lives. The nerd is under pressure from his overbearing father to get admission into MIT, the short-tempered, snappy one longs for the attention of her busy parents, the pretty one is being bullied into realizing her mother’s unfulfilled dreams, and Mr Popular has a strained relationship with his worrying father.

Much in the same sloppy vein as Faltu recently, the larger theme that’s addressed here is the lack of communication between adults and their children. Pretty much all parents are painted as villains, while teenagers are dubbed the misunderstood generation. Some of this might have worked if the characters or their situations felt authentic. But very little feels real or relatable in this film, aside from the sporadic use of status updates to take the narrative forward, and the exasperation of parents watching their kids spend so much time texting.

The real problem is that the film neither feels accurately representative of this generation and its lifestyle, nor does it have an aspirational quality to it like those campus portions of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai did all those years ago. As a result it feels very boring, and a closing-credits item-song featuring Shah Rukh Khan doesn’t redeem it in any way.

Of the cast, Ali Fazal has a likeable presence, and Zoa Morani is blessed with abundant confidence. The clumsy script however, which throws in everything from a teenage pregnancy scare to a drugs bust, is limp to say the least despite the involvement of four writers.

I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five for director Roshan Abbas’ Always Kabhi Kabhi. Watching this film is like attending a concert put up by ten-year-olds. It’s amateurish, and tedious to sit through, and the only thing you can appreciate in the end is the earnestness behind the effort.

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