Kabir Singh movie review: Shahid Kapoor holds together a stifling remake

There’s no forgetting an original performance, a sentiment this story coasts rather lazily on.

Published: 21st June 2019 10:45 PM  |   Last Updated: 25th June 2019 11:40 PM   |  A+A-

Kabir Singh. (Photo | Twitter)

Express News Service

There’s no forgetting an original performance, a sentiment this story coasts rather lazily on. Vijay Deverakonda’s morality-bending act in and as Arjun Reddy remains untoppable, two years and one remake down.

Shahid Kapoor, who slips into the character in the Hindi version, Kabir Singh, is sincere but never sensational. He is the striving second lover after the natural first one. “Kya arranged marriage mein love hota hai kya?” Kabir asks his friend. “Depends on the individual,” comes the answer. 

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Yet, let’s not claim to speak for entire fandoms — at the Chennai theatre I was watching, the hoots arrived exactly where you’d expect them. Pushing forty and father of two, Shahid looks convincing as the campus jerk on a sputtering bike, an entitled prick averse to ashtrays and human sensitivity. In interviews, the actor has insisted that Arjun and Kabir are different people.

Kabir Singh

The dissimilarities, it turns out, are situational: Arjun takes up admission at a Mangalore medical college to stay closer to the sea, Kabir stays back in Delhi because he loves the ‘thand’. Kabir is Punjabi, with shorter hair, and says ‘caste’ like he’s in a debate. There is some attempted sublimation (‘healthy chicks’, not ‘fat chicks’), but overall this character remains as pampered, aggressive, and forcibly masculine as his screen cousin. As for the girl, she still speaks in half-sentences. It’s a pity.

Even a decade on, director Sandeep Reddy Vanga stands visibly awestruck by Anurag Kashyap’s Dev D (Arjun Reddy packed a clever easter-egg for fans of the 2009 film; missing here). But where Devendra Dhillon was little more than a joke to his maker — a fool in a dark comedy, distanced by a sardonic soundtrack — Sandeep genuinely wants us to care for Kabir.

ALSO READ | Kabir Singh and Arjun Reddy aren’t the same people: Shahid Kapoor and Kiara Advani

The dissonance is frustrating and brutal. In one scene, as Kabir suffers on in his Mumbai bachelor pad, having taken up a surgical job, and wrecked by addiction and heartbreak, his brother pays him a visit. Upon finding a filtration device in the cupboard, the brother (an effective Arjan Bajwa) first feigns a look of cutesy frustration — I give up on this hapless fiend — and then breaks into a strong-willed sermon — I must persevere because he’s the hero and needs to be restored to civility.

These two tones, of jazzing up the hero’s hedonism but also creating ground for his salvation, dooms the film. You’d expect the love story, suitably updated with Hindi love tracks, to alleviate the confusion, help us look beyond the wrong. No dice. Kabir’s relationship with Preeti (Kiara Advani) is anything but earnest — he expects her orthodox father to not mind their kissing, but calculably intructs her to correct her pallu.

Shahid Kapoor in Kabir Singh. (Photo | Twitter)

Informed that his girlfriend has been harassed, Kabir badgers the reporter for inciting details. “Where all did he touch her?” he exhorts, fuelling his disgust. Such an ultraspecific need for masculine provocation is contradicted by Kabir’s perpetually hot head (chasing down the housemaid for breaking a glass). This film could have been a fascinating study in male hypocrisy, were it not such an indolent celebration of it.

Kabir Singh is shown housing with a dog, though he’s the one barking. Shahid Kapoor visibly spits into people’s faces, and puts on his surgical gloves like he’s prepping for a cage match. There is a lot of English, but nothing incomprehensible. There are some fine cameos, and a few smartly penned comebacks. It’s also nice to see Suresh Oberoi as an indulging, excusing father. (God knows where he gets that from?)

Anger consumes all, even films on anger. “I don’t like your interrogative tone,” Kabir tells his lawyer, promptly shutting down the man. It’s a warning that extends to all, even the director pretending to cut him up. No one intrudes on Kabir Singh, least of all a film camera, the most incisive scalpel in the world. Some patients just cannot be saved.

Director: Sandeep Vanga
Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Kiara Advani

Film: Kabir Singh

Director: Sandeep Vanga

Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Kiara Advani

Rating: 2/5 stars

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