Interested to pursue an acting career, he successfully auditioned for a film to be directed by Anubhav Sinha. However, the film was shelved, following which he worked as an assistant director to Karan Johar on the 2010 film My Name Is Khan. In 2012, Malhotra made his acting debut with Johar's Student of the Year alongside Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt. He was cast as Abhimanyu Singh, a scholarship student of limited financial means, who competes with his wealthy best friend Rohan (played by Dhawan) to win an annual school championship. Film critic Rajeev Masand of CNN-IBN considered Malhotra's performance to be "earnest", adding that he had "a pleasing presence. " Student of the Year was a financial success, grossing ₹700 million (US$10 million) domestically.