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Why Cheat India review: Emraan Hashmi's immoral character points out rot in Indian education system

Release Date: 18 Jan 2019 / Rated: U/A / 02hr 01min

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Mayur Lookhar

A gripping screenplay and fine performances make director Soumik Sen's informative drama an entertaining film.

“I don’t aspire to be a hero. I don’t have time to be a villain. I’m just a player,” says Rakesh Singh nonchalantly. It’s not a defensive line; Rakesh Singh truly means every word he says.

Here is a master manipulator, one running a nationwide education scam. Producer and lead actor Emraan Hashmi shows society how the rat race for academic excellence is the perfect avenue for players like Rakesh Singh to flourish.

Rakesh Singh (Hashmi) hires brilliant students (all boys) from poor families to help the dull children of the rich get admission to top engineering, medical and business schools / colleges. The brilliant students serve as illegal proxy candidates at the entrance exams. Rakesh Singh pays his chosen minds well, even luring them with eye candy.

The Lucknow man seems invincible, until his own prodigy Satyendra aka Sattu (Snighdadeep Chatterjee) gets exposed. Not one to surrender easily, Rakesh Singh rides over the little bump to spread his empire across the nation. The past, though, comes back to haunt him.

Rakesh Singh is like a wolf in sheep's clothing, says Emraan Hashmi on his Cheat India character

Director Soumik Sen, who gave us the dud Gulaab Gang (2014), redeems himself, ironically, with a character that has no moral compass. Why Cheat India? Sen and Hashmi mock the education system that emphasizes more on grades than knowledge.

We have a population of 1.35 billion, with lakhs of students vying for admissions to marquee institutes that can only take in a few thousands. Parental pressure only adds to the trouble of the reluctant aspirants. The rat race gives rise to paper leaks, sleaze, money-spinning coaching classes and dubious institutes.

Rajkumar Hirani’s Munna Bhai MBBS (2003) and 3 Idiots (2009) mocked the education system, and Why Cheat India shows you the corruption in it.

The pertinent story, engaging screenplay and fine performances by the cast makes Why Cheat India an entertaining film.

Hashmi is not averse to playing a crook. He played the conman in Raja Natwarlal (2014). Though not vicious, Rakesh Singh is an unapologetic blackguard. There is no redemption for him as he justifies his immoral acts even while facing trial.

Ridiculed by his father for being poor at studies (Rakesh Singh failed three times to clear entrance exams to an engineering college), his scarred past is perhaps to justify his actions, but he seeks no sympathy.

Hashmi is looking a lot fresher and smarter than we have seen him in recent years. Manipulative men often have the gift of the gab and Rakesh Singh wins people over with his poise and smooth talk.

He seldom shows anger. In one scene, one of his hired pupils demands more money. Rakesh Singh gently reminds him of his lusty deeds and the boy is quick to toe the line.

Hashmi’s career has been on the rocks for six years. With a mature show, the actor would hope the informative crime drama Why Cheat India stems the rot.

Rakesh Singh only hires boys. Does that mean girls are incorruptible? No, but Sen wants to show how in a patriarchal set-up women don’t enjoy equal rights. Shreya Dhanwanthary plays Nupur, the sister of Satyendra. While their father has big dreams for the son, all he wants for Nupur is to marry her off. To get a good bride, the man must have big degrees and good pay. Don’t many parents impose their dreams on their sons?

Actress and model Dhanwanthary steps into Hindi cinema with Why Cheat India and leaves a lasting impression. Last year, we saw the likes of Zoya Hussain and Banita Sandhu shine in their maiden films, Mukkabaaz and October, respectively. Dhanwanthary comes across as a breath of fresh air.

Credit to Sen, Hashmi and the casting team for picking Dhanwanthary. Naturally gifted, she slips into her small-town-girl character perfectly. Nupur steals your heart with her innocence.

The two best performers of the film are the two women in Rakesh Singh’s life. Apart from Nupur, it is the actress (Parveen) playing his wife who leaves you in splits. The woman is a pretty, sanskari (cultured) chatterbox with a heavy UP accent. This nagging wife is a pure delight to watch.

The cast has done its job admirably, but where the film suffers is in the predictable second half. That is evident the moment Nupur comes back into Rakesh Singh’s life. How he doesn’t get suspicious of her is a little hard to believe.

"I don't leak question papers, that is not good for business, not good for the nation," Rakesh Singh tells the court. Now, is putting up proxy candidates a lesser crime than leaking question papers? This is a feeble argument.

The inevitability of the second half, the immoral Rakesh Singh's preachy defence, and, while true, the melodramatic final moments take a little sheen off the film.. However, it’s the earnest performances by the cast that helps Why Cheat India pass with good marks.

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