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The Dartmouth
April 15, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

'College Sutra' premieres tonight

When "College Sutra" premieres tonight at 8 p.m. in Loew Auditorium, expect the culmination of months of work from producer Amit Anand '03 and his cast. Expect two dazzling dance segments that could each be mini music videos. Expect an above-average portrayal of the lead character, Anjali, by Sophia Khan '06. But don't expect much more.

This film about a wide-eyed first-year brings together elements of Indian filmmaking's Bollywood genre and Dartmouth inside jokes.

"[Bollywood] seeks to address universal themes, such as love," Anand explained, "but presents them in settings such as exotic locations or dreamy song-and-dance sequences. We took this aesthetic as a basic style and added elements and issues that would quickly be censored in India: desire, sexuality and in general the realist elements of college life."

Admittedly, I'm unfamiliar with the Bollywood genre, so I can only take for granted what I am told: the over-dramatized acting and the dance sequences that seem to come out of nowhere are all just part of the style. I found myself, anytime a line sounded a bit forced or at worst corny, attributing it to the genre.

"Perhaps," I thought as I watched a rough cut of the film, "this is what the writer intended." When another stock character came on the screen, I soothed myself: "Bollywood must have lots of caricatured supporting characters."

But my reassurance began to wane. I was hard pressed to believe that the mediocre dialogue and underdeveloped characterization were typical of an entire genre. I had to try very hard to convince myself that incongruous scenes and slurred lines are typical of a certain motif.

The story centers on the character of Anjali, who comes to Dartmouth with pressures from her parents to become a successful doctor and marry a nice Indian boy -- preferably one of their own choosing. After encountering the handsome soccer player Raj at a Milan get-together, she decides that she can choose her own companion.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to her, the vixen Priya already has her eyes on Raj. The rest of the story lays out the events surrounding Raj and Anjali, taking the viewer past familiar spot in Collis, Thayer and the so-called Sig Kap fraternity.

Expect stereotypical college characters, a game of pong, a run-in at No-vack and BlitzMail notification sounds in the background. Do not expect a powerful message or a challenge from the screenwriter to the audience.

This is not to say that a tremendous amount of effort was not expended during this filmmaking experience. It is evident from the many angles and thoughtful placement of the camera that the technical crew took special care with this project. The two dances, "Truth Hurts: Addictive" and "AR Rehman: Kehna Hi Kya," are the most redeeming parts of the movie. And the last scene, melodramatic in Bollywood form, exemplifies careful filming and believable acting.

Go the Loew tonight. Support your friends who have put so much hard work into this project. Support the actors, editors, writers and extras. Expect the pleasure of seeing a movie set at Dartmouth, made with Dartmouth actors, produced by Dartmouth students and for Dartmouth students. But don't expect this college-produced film to set itself apart.