Banners: T-Series, Cine1 Studios
Producers: Bhushan Kumar, Krishan Kumar, Murad Khetani, Ashwin Varde
Director: Sandeep Reddy Vanga
Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Kiara Advani, Soham Majumdar, Kamini Kaushal, Suresh Oberoi, Adil Hussain, Arjan Bajwa, Nikita Dutta
Writer: Sandeep Reddy Vanga
Music: Mithoon, Amaal Mallik, Vishal Mishra, Sachet – Parampara, Akhil Sachdeva
What makes a love story epic? Is it the stardom of the hero and the heroine? Is it the chemistry between them? Is it the story surrounding the love? All these things might be part of a good love story but a great love story needs passion and emotion that touches the hearts of the audience, and that is exactly what Sandeep Reddy Vanga has done, second time around, with his first Hindi directorial, Kabir Singh.
Starring Shahid Kapoor and Kiara Advani in lead roles, the film is a remake of Vanga’s directorial debut, the 2017 Telugu hit Arjun Reddy. Made with the same vision and sentiment, Kabir Singh is a frame-to-frame version of the original film. The director has tweaked the basic storyline to make it more suitable to the pan-India audience but the feeling behind that passion remains intact.
The story begins with an alcoholic, depressed, raging and inherently narcissistic Kabir Singh trying to go about his life as a surgeon where he operates on patients while under the influence of alcohol. By sleeping around with random women and being a victim of substance abuse, he tries to drown out his heartbreak.
The film then takes us to the past, where we see Kabir meet Preeti Sikka for the first time. Kabir being the leader of the senior class, he begins to spend time with the very docile Preeti. Opposites attract and both of them fall in love but even after years of being together, Preeti’s family does not approve of this union and circumstances separate the two. How a destructive Kabir Singh deals with this break-up, the toll it takes on his career and health, and whether he finds his way back to Preeti is what forms the crux of the film.
Music is one of the strongest links in this film. Songs like Bekhayali, Mere sohneya and Tera ban jaunga are so seamlessly woven into the narrative that they up the drama, love, angst and melancholy – which defines the film – several notches. They remain etched in your memory long after you have left the theatre. This is that one rare film that boasts seven songs, all original. What a breath of fresh air!
For those who have watched and gushed about Arjun Reddy, Kabir Singh might come across as a toned-down version of the Telugu film. But Sandeep Vanga Reddy’s writing keeps you engaged and involved almost throughout this roller-coaster of emotion. The script is peppered with fun moments that will crack you up even during some of the most serious and heart-wrenching sequences.
It would be wrong to mention that the director-writer adapts the Telugu version well and creates something that is in tandem with pan-India sensibilities because emotions are universal. This is why you sympathise with the stubborn and violent Kabir every time he suffers a nervous breakdown.
You might not fall in love with Kabir as much as you were smitten by Arjun. But kudos to Reddy for creating and portraying an otherwise obnoxious character like Kabir and making sure that we root for him! He walks the tight rope, making sure that he does not glorify his protagonist’s vices and is yet unapologetic for chiselling a character with multiple grey shades.
Reddy, for the film, sketches emotions with meticulous details. He gets to the bottom of every intense and uncomfortable emotion that we have felt and he does wonders. He lets these emotions culminate in the character of Kabir, who is a personification of rage, love and wild frenzy and this is what makes the film stand out. As we journey through the tragic and catastrophic downfall of the protagonist, we are get inside his convoluted mind that makes him do everything brash and unpredictable and sometimes heart-melting.
The runtime of the film is 174 minutes but you do not get restless. Despite a lengthy runtime, it is packed with events and action that unreel at a quite rapid pace. Yes, there are a bunch of slow-motion sequences but that works in favour of the narrative. They help establish characters, emotions and some important turn of events.
The film is bolstered by a very strong performance from Shahid Kapoor, who plays the titular character. His Kabir Singh is unpredictable, unyielding and dreadful but is soft-hearted and can go to any length for the girl he loves. He slips under the skin of the character with utmost conviction. We saw Kapoor displaying his mad wrath in Udta Punjab a few years ago. This is a more believable and mature version of Tommy Singh. His comic timing is a big plus. Kiara Advani as the innocent, passive, vulnerable and silent Preeti has nothing to do for the most part and she tries too hard to get the emotionally heavier scenes right. Soham Majumdar as Kabir’s best friend, Shiva, delivers an impressive act. Kamini Kaushal and Suresh Oberoi do a decent job. Adil Hussain and Arjan Bajwa, in their guest appearances, are good. Nikita Dutta does not leave an impact.