Kabir Singh (Shahid Kapoor) is a brilliant surgeon. Kabir Singh the man, though, is what you call a train-wreck. He is aggressive, violent and sexist, and yet he has a problem uttering a lie. Kabir Singh's attitude towards women is demeaning and problematic, and yet he is fascinating, almost magnetic to some. There is a lot to hate in Kabir Singh, both the character and the movie, Especially in how the titular lead treats everyone around him, even though the person he abuses the most is himself. The fact that you, perhaps, don't come out hating the movie has more to do with Shahid Kapoor's brilliant performance and Sandeep Vanga's masterful direction. Kabir Singh Advance Booking: Shahid Kapoor and Kiara Advani Starrer Garners Good Response.
Kabir Singh is, more or less, a faithful remake of Vanga's Telugu blockbuster, Arjun Reddy. Those who have seen the original, starring Vijay Deverakonda in his breakout performance, know that you cannot expect a vanilla romance here. Okay, let me amend this line - the love story between Kabir and Preethi (Kiara Advani) is vanilla, full of passion and tenderness, but the man isn't. So when Kabir, who already has temper issues and a devil-may-care attitude, is about to lose the love of his life, he sends himself in a downward spiral of meaningless sex, drugs and booze. The only thing that stops him from derailing completely is his commitment to being a surgeon.
It is difficult to agree with a movie like Kabir Singh. Just like the protagonist, even the film reflects his toxic masculinity, sexist attitude and a careless outlook towards vices like ragging, bullying and substance abuse. Look at the love story itself. Kabir coerces himself into being Preethi's paramour, and Preethi meekly accepts that. Yes, she changes her attitude as their romance progresses. But Preethi, whose father calls her a topper once, is happier snuggling with a man, who adjusts her dupatta for modesty sake, than being her own self.
Preethi as a character is perhaps the most baffling in the film, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't exist in real life, just like her toxic boyfriend. Her meekness fits in snugly into Kabir's aggression, and at one point, they almost balance each other before all hell breaks loose. The romance is not as firm-footed when it begins, but gradually, you feel the passion. And also heartbreak in a terrific scene before the interval, when the couple has a harsh fight outside the girl's house. Problematic, sure, especially when manhandling comes in the picture, but also very impactful.
Sandeep Vanga smartly allows still frames to let the viewers soak in the drama. Like the above fight scene, or another terrific scene during the college portions, when Kabir bashes a rival for messing with Preethi. A word of appreciation for the background score by Harshavardhan Rameshwar, that ranges from powerful to subtle as the needed mood of the scene. Trade Prediction: Will Kabir Singh Bring Back Shahid Kapoor in the Box Office Race? Find Out!
In the second half, Vanga deftly shows how Kabir's life gets disturbingly worse. Again, he allows Kabir's attitude to be ungentlemanly, and yet he sucks you in Kabir's struggle to live a life beyond the girl he loved. The movie is unabashed, almost shocking about highlighting the man's issues. Like that scene when Kabir's friend gets him to do lines of cocaine just so that he is in a condition to attend a hearing. Or when Kabir propositions an actress Jia (Nikita Dutta) to be physical with him without any frills. Just like with Preethi, even Jia's treatment in the movie is problematic in the way she fawns over this alpha male (at one point she even iron-presses his clothes). Only for the movie to soon ditch her and get Kabir back on his damaged life.
But even as you wrinkle your nose in derision over such depictions, Vanga lets Kabir Singh continue to keep you hooked with engaging drama. So even when Kabir Singh has a threatening three-hour runtime, you don't really feel the lag thanks to the idea of seeing something different from a usual Bollywood romance. Many times, it is the razor-sharp dialogues that come in play, that go from darkly humorous to romantic to even philosophical without jarring.
There is even meta-humour thrown in when Kabir rants about how arranged marriages are stupid, and his friend reminds him that it depends on the individuals. In case you forgot, Shahid Kapoor had an arranged marriage.
The music also arrives as pleasant interludes, with "Bekhayali" and "Tujhe Kitna Chahne Lage" being the pick of the lot.
Watch the trailer of Kabir Singh below:
However, like in the original, I have a problem with the movie's conclusion. It has nothing to do with how the scene is played, but more to do with how Vanga etches out one of the main characters here. The female one, that is.
What an excellent show from Shahid Kapoor as the titular lead! You may hate how his character behaves, but you just can't hate him overall, because Shahid Kapoor makes his glaring flaws seem humane enough. His aggression is scary to watch, and so is his performance during the self-destructive scenes, and Shahid easily shifts between the two extremes. Just watch the scene when Kabir, in a fit of angry aggression, drives his bike from a Holi party to get to Preethi only to switch to a tender mode on seeing her crying. And then immediately gets back to his aggression, when he questions the students around. What a brilliant transformation there! This is easily Shahid's best performance to date, ranking tad better than Haider and Kaminey!
Kiara Advani's character may be unconvincing to many, but she grows on you as an actor in the scene near the interval and in the climax. Shahid and Kiara's chemistry is also highly convincing, making their love story work.
The supporting cast, consisting of Suresh Oberoi, Arjan Bajwa, Nikita Dutta, Kamini Kaushal, all lend in fine performances. But special mention is deserving for the terrific act by Soham Majumdar, who plays Kabir's patient, loyal friend Shiva.
- Shahid Kapoor
- The Other Performances
- Sandeep Vanga's Direction
- The Bold Approach
- An Engaging Narrative
- The Problematic Character Depiction
- Unabashed Misogyny
- The Way Female Characters Are Written
- A Little Lag in the Second Half
Like its original, Kabir Singh is an unabashed, bold depiction of a damaged man's journey to self-destruction and back. The purists may be shocked with the toxic masculinity and sexism on display. But if we accept the characters with all their inherent flaws, then Kabir Singh is a dark but fascinating take on love, with a brilliant show from Shahid Kapoor.