Movie Name:Kabir SinghCast:Shahid Kapoor, Kiara AdvaniDirector:Sandeep Reddy Vanga
A hapless maid in Kabir Singh breaks a drinking glass by mistake. Our protagonist chases her, glare in place, and cigarette hanging from his lips. When an entire theatre erupts in applause to this man chasing his maid, with the intention of beating her up, you realise Kabir Singh will be a hit. No matter how many reviews try to pry open the eyes of the filmmaker, Sandeep Reddy Vanga, and its lead actor, Shahid Kapoor. It did not happen with Arjun Reddy the film. It will not happen with Kabir Singh.
The women in Kabir Singh are beaten, kissed without consent, forced to take off their pants at knifepoint, slapped and treated like street dogs. Strike that. Kabir Singh’s dog gets a meatier role and better treatment .
The women in Kabir Singh are beaten, kissed without consent, forced to take off their pants at knifepoint, slapped and treated like street dogs. Strike that. Kabir Singh’s dog gets a meatier role and better treatment than his women in this mess of a film. What worked with Arjun Reddy the first time, is a little too much for the Bollywood audience to take (is it?). Did director Sandeep Reddy Vanga think he would get away with this level of misogyny a second time? Maybe he did. And he wasn’t wrong. The answer lies in that theatre, where 90 per cent of the audience claps when a man sets out to beat a woman, even as the other 10 per cent squirms in discomfort.
Kabir Singh is about an uber-masculine, testosterone-driven person. But take it from someone who has walked out of a toxic, abusive relationship. There is nothing ‘cool’ about it. The ‘manly’ men in these relationships don’t deserve the end that these films pander to us. No matter how many Sandeep Reddy Vangas and Kabir Singhs try to tell you otherwise. Some women leave this breed of abusive partners. Others cannot muster up the courage to do so. And then there are the heroines in Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s Arjun Reddys and Kabir Singhs. Abuse is so normal in this world that the lead woman in the story is robbed of her voice.
Through the three-hour film – 2 hours and 54 minutes, we see a Solar System that has Medical Student, and then Surgeon Kabir Singh as its resident star. He is one of your Biology projects. For everyone. Everyone around our hero has only him to worry about. They go to their clinics and ‘refer’ women to Kabir to sleep with. They keep a count of the days he has been out of home for. They leave him, but only for everything else to fit perfectly back in the scheme of things. In this grand scheme of things, director Sandeep Reddy Vanga stays downright faithful to his first child, Arjun Reddy. Except, while the Telugu audience got to see an exotic Italy as the ‘therapy vacation’, their Hindi counterpart has to make do with somewhere a few kilometres off Mumbai.
Kabir Singh the film is the same film as Arjun Reddy. It is the same story, the same dialogues, the same character, the same. So if you have seen Arjun Reddy, you would know that Shahid Kapoor is merely play-acting, trying to do a Vijay Deverakonda. Shahid tries so hard to be Vijay Deverakonda that Kabir Singh loses himself after the first few scenes. So what did Sandeep Reddy Vanga and this entire cast and crew do with Kabir Singh? That’s a question we don’t yet have an answer to.
Kabir has anger management issues, we are told. We are shown. We are made to swallow. Then your acid reflux kicks in, like after a night of limitless drinking. Nine-tenths of Kabir Singh the film is spent on showing this brilliant student getting away with the worst of misdemeanours, just because he is the ‘topper of his batch, college, university’. Come on. Your story is set in a top Delhi medical college. Is it really that ‘free’ a world out there? Kabir Singh the guy sees Preeti Sikka the girl. He falls in love at first sight. He warns her entire batch to concentrate on the rest but leave her out because she is ‘meri bandi’. He plants a kiss on her cheek in front of the entire college and says ‘kisine nahi dekha’. Hello, ever heard of consent?
Kabir chooses Preeti’s ‘friend’ for her. “You’re a goodlooking chick, she is a healthy chick. Good combination.” And he has just begun. Over the next 2.5 hours, director Sandeep Reddy Vanga and actor Shahid Kapoor take us through the absolute worst of toxic masculinity. If you groan in disgust at what is going on in front of you, you are supposed to forgive Kabir Singh as the guy who has ‘anger management issues’.
Kabir keeps lamenting that ‘it is 2019, but we cannot get married because of caste’. It is 2019. A lot of the people associated with this film seem to have forgotten that.
Among the redeeming factors of Kabir Singh is the acting by Soham Majumdar, who plays Kabir’s unrequited best friend Shiva and the sole voice of reason in this film. The supporting cast in Kabir Singh has very little to do except cater to this man’s whims and fancies. Arjan Bajwa plays Kabir’s elder brother Karan in a short but memorable role. Kiara Advani has nothing much to do in the film. She brings a freshness to her character Preeti but thanks to the director, gets a role not worth shining in. So passive is the character of Preeti that you cannot even pity her. Suresh Oberoi as Kabir’s father and Kamini Kaushal as his grandmother, like the rest of the supporting cast, have little to do in Kabir Singh.
The music of the film is outstanding. Songs like Bekhayali, Kaise Hua and Tujhe Kitna Chahne Lage are downright chartbusters.
Kabir Singh spends 120 minutes of its 154 in showing Kabir either drinking or drunk or snorting cocaine or needling in morphine or fighting with people or, slapping his girlfriend or screaming at her. Or making out. In the remaining 24 minutes, his repentance is done with, and we all go home with a happy ending. If you think it is okay, if you think it is justified because ‘movie hai yaar, it’s not real life‘, you are part of the problem.
Misogyny is not cool. Neither is Kabir Singh.
1.5 out of 5 stars for Kabir Singh. Watch Arjun Reddy a second time. With subtitles, there’s really no difference. There’s Lonely Planet: Italy for the rest.