Director: Sandeep Reddy Vanga
Star cast: Shahid Kapoor, Kiara Advani, Arjan Bajwa, Nikita Dutta, Soham Majumdar, Suresh Oberoi and Kamini Kaushal
Rating: Two-and-a-half stars
By Giridhar Jha
Amitabh Bachchan owes his fame and fortune to his nuanced portrayals of an angry young man fighting against an unjust system in film after film in his early career; Dilip Kumar in Ganga Jamuna (1961) and Naseeruddin Shah in Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyoon Aata Hai (1980), before and after him, also lent legitimacy to such characters, giving vent to the angst and anguish of a common man to underline the deep-rooted discrimination in an indifferent society.
In Kabir Singh, Shahid Kapoor’s eponymous character is introduced as an angry young man for no apparent reason. Even before he loses the woman he passionately loves and sets out on a path of self-destruction, he is shown blowing a fuse at the slightest provocation. Why is he hypertensive despite all his accomplishments remains inexplicable. After all, he is a topper at his medical college and also excels in extra-curricular activities. Besides, he has a doting grandma, a caring elder brother and indulgent parents who, like the college management, are willing to condone all his stupid acts as a veritable bully on the campus. Ideally, such a person should have had no reason to get furious at just about everything. But he is shown as someone grappling with a major anger management issue, even before he meets the girl, pretty much like a rebel without a cause from this millennial generation who is forever ready to barter his stethoscope for a baton.
As an audience, you might expect this muscle-flexing medico to mellow down a bit when he falls for a pretty girl Preeti Sikka played by Kiara Advani who comes to his college to pursue MBBS. But all he does to win over her is to get on with his impetuosity. He warns her batchmates against wooing her, drags her out of her classrooms to go for joyrides and even plants a forcible kiss on her cheeks on the bustling campus. You expect the girl to squirm at this bully who shows scant regard for decency and decorum but she remains meek and submissive. She ultimately succumbs to his charms when she realises that beneath his overtly misogynistic and ‘my-way-or-highway’ kind of romance, here is a man with a tender heart that skips a beat or two only for her. What follows thereafter is a purely passionate affair of an amorous couple spending more time with each other between the sheets in the boys’ hostel than anatomy classes of the medical college.
Howsoever implausible Kabir’s characterisation is, the narrative flows along nicely till the interval, thanks to the striking chemistry between its lead pair. But it flounders when he sets out on his mission to ruin himself after he fails to get his woman. Much of the second half meanders aimlessly showing endless footage of Kabir drowning himself in sorrow, like a modern-day Devdas. His sorrow is, of course, compounded by his innate inability to control his anger all the while. In one sequence, he is even shown chasing a middle-aged maid to assault her simply for breaking a glass. Why this domestic help stays with him, like everybody else in the movie, remains a puzzle.
Post-interval, with his lady love disappearing from the scene, leaving Kabir to fend for himself with an overdose of drugs and alcohol, it becomes a tedious watch, making you wonder at times whether you should sympathise or empathise with him or simply remain indifferent to this man wallowing in self-pity.
Shahid Kapoor as an angry lover is near-impeccable in the movie, which is a remake of 2017 Tegulu hit, Arjun Reddy, made by the same director Sandeep Reddy Vanga but it is nowhere close to his performances in Kameene (2009), Haider (2014) and Udta Punjab (2016). It might probably have happened because he had limited scope for improvisation in terms of characterisation since the director had chosen to follow the same template which he had used in his Telugu original where Vijay Deverakonda had played the flawed hero to perfection. Kiara Advani as Kabir’s ladylove has given a decent performance and so has the supporting cast led by veteran Kamini Kaushal, Suresh Oberoi, Arjan Bajwa, Nikita Dutta and Soham Majumdar. The 174-minute film might appeal to the multiplex-going young audience but it could have been pruned by a discernible editor at least by half-an-hour to make it a racier love story, without harming the flawed character of the hypertensive Devdas of our times.