The plot begins with the dean Yogindra Vashit (Rishi Kapoor) being hospitalized and students from his favorite batch re-uniting to meet him. The story is henceforth told through the eyes of Kaizaad "Sudo" Sodabottleopenerwala (Kayoze Irani), Tanya Israni (Sana Saeed), Jeet Khurana (Sahil Anand) and Shruti Pathak (Mansi Rachh) as they reminisce their past in St. Teresa College and the events that lead up to the present day.
The three main characters, Rohan Nanda (Varun Dhawan), the son of a business tycoon, Ashok Nanda (Ram Kapoor), grapples with a complex relationship with his father and knows that winning the Student Of the Year trophy will bag him the approval that he subconsciously craves for; Shanaya Singhania (Alia Bhatt) is the girl whom every guy in the high school wants to be with and Abhimanyu "Abhi" Singh (Sidharth Malhotra) who comes from a middle-class family, is there on a scholarship, and wants to achieve great heights of success and prosperity; the first step to which will be the Student of the Year trophy. When the two male protagonists, Rohan and Abhi with distinct backgrounds and clear goals, clash with each other in the locker room, football field and the canteen, there is no question in anyone's mind that the preset equations of the St. Teresa's campus are about to change.
When Abhi and Rohan’s rivalry takes an unexpected turn to friendship, neither pre-empts the complications that would brew. When introduced to Rohan's father, Abhi admits that he wanted to be like him, which prompts Ashok to say that Abhi is more like a son to him, and that he doesn't approve of what Rohan does. Things are further knotted up when Shanaya enters the equation. While Shanaya and Rohan are childhood sweethearts, Abhi is attracted to Shanaya at first, but when confronted by Rohan, dismisses her as 'not his type'. Tanya continues to try and weaken the relationship of Shanya and Rohan, by flirting unabashedly with Rohan who enjoys her attention, causing Shanaya to feel upset time and time again. She seeks the help of Abhimanyu, who helps her make Rohan realise what he's missing out on by making him jealous during his elder brother's wedding in Thailand. As Shanaya flirts with Abhimanyu to try and reclaim Rohan's attention, which she eventually does, Abhimanyu falls in love with Shanaya. Looming large over the various friendships in the campus is the Student Of The Year trophy and Dean Yogendra Vashit’s emphasis on success and victory, which they face upon returning to school from the wedding.
Abhi gradually moves away from Shanaya after she finds out that he likes her, and despite her attempts to reconnect with him, he doesn't respond. After Rohan, Abhi and Shanaya are selected for the competition, Abhi and Shanaya's team win the first segment of the competition. To celebrate Abhi's victory Rohan invites himself to Abhi's uncle's house, where Abhi's grandma has a sudden cardiac arrest. The next day, Shanaya turns up with flowers to see Abhi's grandma and see if he himself is alright. Shanaya's everyday visits brings her close to Abhi. After Abhi's grandma dies, he turns reclusive and tries to avoid everyone including Shanaya. But a sudden moment of spark leads to them kissing only to be caught by Rohan. A fight between Rohan and Abhi ensues after that. At home, Ashok argues with Rohan about his actions, which prompts Rohan to say that he doesn't want to be his son anymore and walks out. The foes-turned-friends-turned foes, Abhi and Rohan, are ready for a face-off and battle lines are drawn through the length and breadth of the campus, with only one goal in everyone’s eyes - the Student Of The Year trophy. During the second segment of the competition, Rohan realizes that Shanaya does love Abhi, but can't show it because of the tension between the three. In the final segment, Rohan wins, with Abhi coming in as a very close second. At the award ceremony, Dean gives the award to Rohan, but he doesn't accept it. A drunk Sudo insults Dean for creating an award which created rifts among friends.
Ten years later, when Abhi and Rohan meet, it is revealed that Shanaya married Abhi, who is now a business tycoon like Rohan's father and Rohan has fulfilled his dream of becoming a musician. It is also revealed that Rohan did not accept the award because he knew that Abhi lost on purpose. Abhi explains his actions by telling Rohan that he saw his father enjoying Rohan lose, after which he decided to slow down to teach Rohan's father a lesson. Another argument sparks another fight between Rohan and Abhi, which then ends in them making up. In the end, it is shown Abhi and Rohan racing together in a stadium, showing that nothing can break their friendship forever.
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