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All India Rank

Farhad Dalal
Farhad Dalal
3.5 Star popcorn reviewss


Varun Grover is possibly one of the best writers that we have in our country at the moment. And his writing is scaled across some hilarious standups, some heartfelt poetry and some thought-provoking and provocative pieces of writing in an industry that has refused to stand for itself. In other words, Varun Grover is a rare breed whose voice needs to be preserved for the value that it brings on celluloid with respect to the society and the politics. So when I did get to know about his directorial debut with a film titled All India Rank, I was quite looking forward to it. 

My educational background is that of Engineering and I was very clear early on too that I did not wish to go to Kota for the preparation to get into IIT. And this was not because I wasn’t capable of it, but more because I refused to get into the rat race of the prestigious institute that has only a handful of seats to offer. When it did come to the subject of the IIT Aspirants, the novelty factor isn’t present anymore owing to TVF who single-handedly lead a revolution of creating relatable content, and in the process made one of my favourite shows from their production house, Kota Factory. Other than that, the underdog story in the educational sector is covered in series like Crash Course or even the recently concluded sleeper hit of 2023, 12th Fail. So in keeping in mind the writing prowess of Varun Grover, I was curious on what he had to offer with his debut film All India Rank. So then, does All India Rank manage to impress, let’s find out.

Story & Screenplay

All India Rank follows the young teenager belonging to a middle class family who is pushed in the rat race of IIT wherein he has to stay and study in Kota to begin with. Will he eventually make the cut or does life have other plans for him? The story here is not novel with its subject but the novelty factor is definitely sprinkled with its raw setting that is deliberately designed to make you disconnected as opposed to what you witnessed in Kota Factory which was more in the relatable space. Also, setting the story in the 90s was another refreshing layer to the writing that did take you on a bittersweet nostalgic trip down memory lane. The screenplay standing at a shade under 100 minutes is taut while presenting the story in a rather uneven and raw manner which I believe was deliberately done to showcase a world which is far from being sanitized. In fact, the closer to reality the writing gets, the more it strikes a chord here while never quite losing sight of the layered undertones that it has to offer. 

The drama begins with the Euler’s formula that describes the fact that an imaginary number(i) along with a constant variable(pi) can amount to 0(after adding 1 to the base of natural algorithm raised to the power i into pi). This follows a brief introduction of the protagonist and his family comprising of his mother and his father who decide that their only child should stay in Kota to prepare for IIT. The setting is of the 90s, an era of the walkman and cassettes, and no signs of cell phones, something that makes the communication even tough. And in the first 20 odd minutes, this aspect of the drama is effectively communicated along with the fact that Vivek, the 17 year old protagonist doesn’t wish to reside in Kota away from his family. Much as the narrative is tilted in favour of the kids generally, Varun Grover the writer ensures that a parallel track involving the parents unfolds, that also allows you some space to empathize with their financial situation as they coax their son into pursuing IIT. On the other hand, Vivek is clueless about his dreams, almost a loner away from home who is burdened with the pressure of clearing IIT just because of being a school topper, and investing in his parents’ dreams. 

The proceedings are raw, edgy and engaging while definitely being layered along the way. The journey of a teenager in his late teens while being on the cusp of adulthood is effectively showcased while also staying true to the 90s era, evoking a sense of nostalgia for the 90s kid in me. This, while consistently staying true to the surroundings of the coaching city that sees a plethora of students visiting it even today. Within the dull premises of the city and the mundane life of the protagonist, there is a little blossoming love story for Vivek even as he becomes a part of a group featuring two ‘repeaters’ with whom he strikes a bond with. The focus here is not so much in the classroom which is only used as a medium of pressure in the drama, but the focus is on the general life of a boy away from his home. And the pressure of it reflects in an incredible interval block featuring a rainfall of pencils. 

Knowing Varun and his stance regarding the politics of the country, there is a brief little subplot that deftly touches upon the politics of the work place featuring the character of the father with its traces leading upto the larger picture that we are witness to even today. This for me was an interesting diversion that helped you to also judge the pain of the character of the father. A further subplot of a troublemaker to the family having a face-off with Vivek’s parents before the father realises that he is from IIT makes for a heartfelt moment of realisation for him which previously was a status symbol that the father could flaunt in front of his colleagues. This, while Vivek sees the darker side of life in an alarming manner in the events leading up to the final act that is slightly faulty. I completely understood on what Varun was trying to convey through that open end but it required a little more clarity from a writing stand point to truly drive home his point. The recall value to the first scene was there and the messaging of finding control in life beyond IIT was in place but the clarity of thought(which need not be spoon fed by a closed ending) was slightly missing. Overall, the screenplay is well written and makes for a poignant watch and a nostalgic ride while briefly faltering at the end.

Dialogues, Music & Direction

The dialogues are beautiful here and some lines beautifully stick on with you long after the film has ended. The lines evoking the sentiments of your original home being left out in oblivion over the course of your life and ambitions formed one of the most bittersweet moments of the film. The music is beautiful here and each song by a bunch of various artists(Aditi Paul, Vishal Bhardwaj, Chitrangada Satarupa and Sambit C to name a few) conveys the underlying sentiments of the drama rather well. In fact, the flavour of the music from the 90s is evident through every song in the film that exudes of simplicity, each with a different note of emotion. The BGM is sparingly used but blends perfectly with the drama. The cinematography captures the rawness of the drama pretty well with some subdued frames that represent the dull vibes of the city. The editing is decent and perhaps could have been a little more crisper with a few sequences. Director Varun Grover does a good job although in certain places, the staging of a scene could have been improved. But he definitely shows promise by beautifully inducing some heartfelt moments amidst the world that is raw and dull. To top it, he adds interesting characters and does well to balance the barrative by tying the point of views really well. This was an impressive directorial debut by Varun. On a side note, kudos to Jaideep Sahni for pushing this film to be made❤.


The performances are pretty good here by the cast members. Saadat Khan as Mohit is a character that will briefly infuriate you and it attributes to his stellar act. Neeraj Singh as Chandan and Ayush Pandey as Rinku add different perspectives in the life of Vivek through their contrasting yet relatable characters, both of whom do a good job with their acts. Sheeba Chadha as Kalpana is such a treat to watch wherein you get a good account of her sincerity with a hint of humour thrown in. Also, the Bollywood meta-references in her first scene was a joy to watch. Geeta Agrawal Sharma and Shashi Bhushan as Vivek’s parents are such fine actors who bring the emotional core of their characters to the fore with utmost ease. Their character traits are ably backed by the situations and hardships faced by the couple which is often omitted onscreen. And that is what makes their characters heartfelt(in different capacities) and grounded in nature. Samta Sudiksha as Sarika has a pleasant presence onscreen and she portrays her character with much needed softness and earnestness. She is a joy to watch. Bodhisattva Sharma as Vivek is wonderfully restrained and does a splendid job with his act. His body language and emotions are wonderfully expressed in a subdued but effective act that helps you to invest in his journey.


All India Rank is a love letter to the aspirants of IIT with a tinge of nostalgia from the 90s that accounts for a delicately poignant watch with shades of rawness. I quite enjoyed the drama here. Available in a theatre near you.


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