Soumik Sen’s film follows a proxy examination scam tycoon who games the system for profit.

Cheat India, the original title of Soumik Sen’s film, suits its amorality far better than the new one. Now known as Why Cheat India as a result of a censor board intervention, the film offers a sly tribute to a unique strain of the Indian entrepreneurial spirit. It involves finding loopholes in systems and institutions and plugging them with thick wads of rupee notes.

The movie opens in the 1990s and ends in the present. It is, in its own perverse fashion, an Indian success story. Rakesh is a proxy examination scam tycoon who has turned the national obsession for high marks and merit lists on its head. Rakesh pushes undeserving candidates into engineering and medical colleges by getting smarter students to take their examinations for them. He keep a close watch on toppers, and uses his intimate knowledge of their family situations – debt-ridden fathers, sisters who need to be married off – to turn them into minor criminals.

The movie opens with one such hopeful topper, Satyendra (Snighdadeep Chatterjee), who gets on a merit list for an engineering college. Visitors turn up to congratulate Satyendra and give him marigold garlands and freebies, but Rakesh has something better to offer – lots of money, and a better lifestyle that Satyendra’s father can ever afford.

The script has also been written by Soumik Sen, who is in better form here than in his previous film, the misfire Gulaab Gang (2014). Despite being disjointed and overstretched, the 120-minute movie manages to double up both as an expose of the problems that plague the examination system and a commentary on the failure of a generation to secure the future of the next one. Rakesh, who is played with perfectly calibrated charm and detachment by Emraan Hashmi, was an academic failure himself – a fact that his father is never tired of bringing up. However, Rakesh’s family has no qualms in taking his money, and the true measure of Rakesh’s success is in casting everybody around him in his own image. The film has exactly two upright characters, one of them a police inspector.

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