Shahid’s edgy performance is the takeaway here: Kabir Singh Review

Film: Kabir Singh

Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Arjan Bajwa, Kiara Advani, Adil Hussain, Kamini Kaushal, Suresh Oberoi, Soham Majumdar, Nikita Dutta

Director: Sandeep Reddy Vanga

Rating: * * ½

In a remarkable epiphany Kabir Singh asks his juniors “What the hell is this shit?” For most of this movie’s runtime I was asking myself the same question. This faithful Hindi remake of the Telugu blockbuster ‘Arjun Reddy,’ by the original’s writer/director Sandeep Reddy Vanga, who claims this story as semi-autobiographical, is so indulgent about its violent excesses that it’s bound to make you retch in agony.

Kabir Raj Dhir Singh (Shahid Kapoor) is always unreasonably angry, given to frequent bouts of violence, excessive drinking, smoking and drug consumption, verbally abusive with his maid, friends, family and colleagues, spends most of his day pursuing the new entrant to the MBBS course at Delhi Institute of Medical Sciences, Preeti Sikka (A demure, de-glam, opinion-less Kiara Advani) that it’s a big wonder when his Dean (Adil Hussain) and other staffers claim him to be a meritorious student – No 1 ranked, no less. It’s a pity that the scriptwriters were unable to build-up a believable lead character here.

To Kabir, Preeti belongs to him and anyone who be spoils her in any form, manner or speech will have to face his formidable anger. Preeti willingly allows herself to be led in this unhealthy romance. Even a lamb would have shown more spirit than Preeti exhibits here. When Preeti opens her mouth it’s even worse. She utters self-deprecating statements like “Sach Kahan tune. Main koi nahin hoon.”

A few weeks after their meeting she is living with him in the boys’ hostel cocking a hoop at propriety and rules. Kabir revels in breaking the rules and the institution actually condones his excesses. Kabir’s parents, older brother, grandmother, friends, colleagues etc. are all obvious contributors/enablers of that excess. Yet they never seem to realise it – until he collapses while performing a surgery. The medical council finds him guilty and debars him from practising but the writer/director’s sympathy for his dystonic lead character continues to be all-encompassing.

More than the love story, it’s the friendship story that calls for attention. Shiva’s (Soham Majumdar) undying loyalty, compassion and support of his friend Kabir, through all the highs and lows (too many to count) of his life should have been the main track here. It’s the kind of valiant, thankless, workhorse effort that goes unnoticed because the dysfunctional romance is given prime importance. With almost every word and action, this film feels gratuitously violent, deliberately misogynistic, and distasteful, is abusive towards women and even tries to romanticise wilful toxicity.

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