A frame-to-frame replica of the original, lifted by a winning soundtrack
If you, alike me, have watched the Telugu original ‘Arjun Reddy’, chances are that you’d be rewatching the film. Barring the cast, ‘Kabir Singh’ is a carbon copy of the original. Maybe, the film could’ve been simply re-released for the Hindi-speaking markets with Hindi audio. So, I’ll spare you the plot details.
Both films in either languages eventually reflect everything that is wrong with the average Indian man. What’s jarring is how you are expected to empathize with the protagonist despite none of his acceptable actions, simply because he’s in love. Your protagonist coerces a woman at knifepoint, to have sex with him, pushes away another when she starts displaying signs of affection following a no-strings-attached relationship, chases down an unsuspecting house-help over a broken glass. Hell, you even slap the woman you love and treat her like a conquest. Can this narrative even be justified firstly, forget normalizing it. Agreed, the actors have maintained in their interviews that the film is reflecting a personality and not making a social comment. But is there any accountability for the influence such a film can cause?
A key scene that points out the hypocrisy of your protagonist in the original film has been omitted from the remake. Fans who’ve watched the original may recollect that Arjun (Vijay Devarakonda) berates his friend’s prospective brother-in-law from London over his objectifying statements about airhostesses on his homeward bound flight. But in the flashback sequence we are shown how Arjun asks Preeti to befriend only healthy and chubby batchmates.
The pluses you ask, are the uncompromising performances by the cast. Shahid makes Kabir look like a love child of Tommy Singh and Haider. He internalizes his intellect and demeanor as a doctor but is an absolute train-wreck when not at the hospital. Kiara’s beautiful face helps her add innocence and respectability to Preeti, a character who is equally responsible for perpetuating such behavior in men. Honestly, if ‘Kabir Singh’ works well enough, I hope that it helps her expand her visibility as an actor. Of the supporting cast, Arjan Bajwa as Kabir’s brother Karan and Kamini Kaushal as the doting grandmother are delightful. But the real hoot is Soham Majumdar as Shiva, Kabir’s best friend who will go to any extent to restore normalcy in his friend’s life. He is the scene-stealer.
After ‘Gully Boy’, the soundtrack of ‘Kabir Singh’ has to be the most winning, original soundtrack produced in 2019. A huge shout-out to Mithoon, Amaal Mallik, Sachet-Parampara and Vishal Mishra. I’m sure fans can and will debate over their favourite songs.
If you’re willing to endure three hours of problematic male behavior, for the sake of great acting and music, then you can pick ‘Kabir Singh’. Else ‘Arjun Reddy’ is available online.