Banners: RSVP, Guy In The Sky Pictures
Producers: Ronnie Screwvala, Pragya Kapoor
Director: Abhishek Kapoor
Cast: Sushant Singh Rajput, Sara Ali Khan, Nishant Dahiya, Pooja Gor, Nitish Bhardwaj, Sonali Sachdev, Alka Amin
Writers: Abhishek Kapoor (Story), Kanika Dhillon (Story, Screenplay, Dialogue)
Sometimes, natural disasters present a much more spine-chilling canvas for a film than even horror does. Director Abhishek Kapoor’s Kedarnath has leveraged one of the most devastating natural calamities in India’s recent history, packaged it with a love story and delivered a film that impresses in parts.
The story of Kedarnath is simple with the much-adored Mansoor, a Muslim pithu, devoting his life to the seva of Lord Shiva, as he helps pilgrims reach their destination, the Kedarnath Mandir. He catches the eye of the rebellious, feisty Mandakini, who is the daughter of a Hindu pandit there. The two form a connection and fall deeply in love even though Mandakini is engaged to someone from her religious community.
This relationship is not accepted by Mandakini’s family and, as they plan for a drastic change in her life, Uttarakhand is devastated by rain and floods. When the water wipes out the pilgrim destination, how Mansoor and Mandakini’s love stays strong through it all forms the crux of the story.
From the trailer itself, Kapoor had given us a gist of the story, which is largely based on the conflict of the protagonists’ love. From the earlier glimpses of the chemistry between lead actors, Sushant Singh Rajput and debutante Sara Ali Khan, one expects more than there is. But the romantic angle gives us the clichéd rich girl-poor boy story with a religious mix. How the story intercepts the disaster theme is interesting but, otherwise, there is nothing novel to this film.
The first half of the film moves slowly as the relationship is established and the apparent conflict is set in motion. But the second half picks up as the devastation wrought by the calamity is shown. The expectations of people who want to see more of the disaster and the struggle that people went through are not met.
The one thing completely in Kapoor’s favour is the visual experience of the film. Cinematographer Tushar Kanti Ray has done a fabulous job of capturing the beauty of not only the lives of the people of Kedarnath and the locality, but also the majestic beauty of the Himalayan mountain range. In fact, the romance between Sushant and Sara is also accentuated by the surroundings, giving it a natural take on the quintessential love story and the ballad that follows.
The writing is a little weak while developing the core story, considering that Kapoor has given us stories like Rock On and Kai Po Che!, and Kanika Dhillon, has given a strong film like Manmarziyaan this year itself. However, the dialogues penned by Dhillon are strong and creates the right impact at crucial moments. One of the best things is how the writer has given the characters lines that are in sync with the environment the film is set in.
A lot of special effects have been used in the film to recreate the floods, and the impact is terrifying but beautiful. The lines blur between naturally shot scenes and the VFX-heavy ones, which shows that the filmmaker has been very careful about producing a life-like result.
Coming to the music of the film, after delivering some memorable hits this year, Amit Trivedi has lost his footing a little with this album. While the song Namo namo and Qafirana are soothing, the track Sweetheart is not up to the standards the musician has created with his previous work. A couple of other numbers also do not leave an impact.
Abhishek Kapoor has tried his hand at the disaster genre, which is not often seen in Hindi cinema. And while the plot of the film is supposed to be centered on it, the story gets caught up with the other ingredients. This results in a good film but one that lacks substance you can take away. However, in a few scenes, one can see Kapoor’s magical touch.
Performance-wise, Sushant Singh Rajput is fantastic. Debutante Sara Ali Khan lives up to the expectations pinned on her for her first film and she is excellent in portraying her character. The supporting acts, from Nishant Dahiya, (Khan’s on-screen fiancé), and Pooja Gor, who plays her sister are good but their characters are not well-developed to make them key to the story. Nitish Bhardwaj, who plays the protective father is okay and so is Sonali Sachdev, who plays Khan’s mother. Portraying the role of Rajput’s mom, Alka Amin is average.
Verdict: Worth a dekho!