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Kabir Singh review: Shahid Kapoor's alpha male is the 'hero' men want to be but should not

Release Date: 21 Jun 2019 / Rated: A / 02hr 55min

Read in: Marathi

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Shriram Iyengar

Kapoor's performance brings Sandeep Reddy Vanga's alpha male alive, with a pumping background score to gloss over the male entitlement in the story.

There is something alluring about the 'bad boy' image. Throughout human history, and arts, the type has abounded to form heroes of iconic epics. From Achilles to Arjuna to actor Amitabh Bachchan, and now Sandeep Reddy Vanga's Kabir Singh (2019).

A remake of Sandeep Reddy Vanga's cult Telugu hit Arjun Reddy (2017), Kabir Singh has Shahid Kapoor's Angry Young Man fuming and raging at the world as he seeks to destroy himself for love. With its slick cinematography, pumping music and a top performance from Kapoor, the film manages to gloss over the misogyny in its story to provide some wishful entertainment.

Reddy tells the story flitting between the past and the present, with the bushy overgrowth of Kabir Singh's beard acting as the marker of the timeline. Kabir is a talented, almost genius, medical surgeon who falls into a spiral of alcoholism, drugs and depression when he loses the love of his life, Preeti (Kiara Advani). Like all great heroes, Kabir's anger results in his hubris.

Shahid Kapoor and Kiara Advani

There is a sense of ownership in the way Kabir and Preeti's love blossoms. The moment he walks into the classroom, establishing his alpha male status, telling her whom to be friends with, will have mixed reactions. Yet, there is also the smitten Kabir, who tears up his college leave note at the first sight of Preeti. It is this volatility that drives the movie's drama and action.

Reddy's Hindi remake is a faithful adaptation of the Telugu original. There are several scenes that are duplicated to the T. There are scenes of violence, one bordering on sexual assault, that make you cringe. No matter what he does, Kabir's friends stand by him, his family stands by him, so does the hospital staff.

The redemption, in the end, is jarring for someone so misogynistic, alcoholic and with an anger problem. He threatens to beat up everyone. His friends, his enemies, his maid, and even slaps his girl. But then, this is a story about a man trapped in his own hubris, told from his perspective. So, the film seeks to justify his violence, misogyny and entitled anger through the cloaked word — passion.

Shahid Kapoor does very well to replicate the volatile personality of Kabir Singh. He matches Vijay Deverakonda's original with his style, oozing machismo and confidence. Where the actor falters is, perhaps, in showing the vulnerability of his character. The actor seems a little detached in some of the more intense emotional scenes of the film.

Kiara Advani in a scene from Kabir Singh

Kiara Advani makes the most of her part, which, understandably, is not much. But the actress holds the emotional core of the film. It is her vulnerability that makes you understand why Kabir falls for her.

While actors Arjan Bajwa and Suresh Oberoi bring on some decent performances, it is Soham Majumdar as Shiva who makes for a delightful addition. As the loyal, ever-present friend, he is the witness to the vulnerability and failures of Kabir. The actor also brings a nice touch of wry humour to his role. 

At 175 minutes, the film is a bit too long. The slick cinematography by Santhana Krishnan Ravichandran, which stylizes every action sequence and motorbike ride, is a tribute to hero worship. It builds up the alpha male, with his toned physique and bearded appearance. This is boosted by a fantastic background score by Harshvardhan Rameshwar, with some lovely songs to boot.

There is no mystery why men like Arjun Reddy or Kabir Singh. They want to be him, his flaws included (a dangerous thought). In a world where 90% of people live repressed lives, holding in anger and desire, suffering through crowds, swallowing pride, Kabir Singhs blaze their way in anger and entitlement till they attain their objective.

This is what the mass of desperate men wants to be. In real life though, Kabir Singhs prove fatal to themselves and to the people around them.


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