Kabir Singh directed by Sandeep Reddy Vanga is like the best case scenario of a highly problematic film. You may feel empathy towards the alcoholic, disoriented condition of the hero. But what he was before that and the way this film tries to justify his behavior is an extremely difficult thing to digest. And what is even ruder is the fact that they are trying to call this true love.
So the movie is about Kabir Singh. He is an MBBS graduate. He is the toper of his college and the university. But he has a huge anger management issue. The movie shows the change in Kabir’s life when he falls in love with a girl named Preethi and how that affects him when the relationship goes through a lot of turbulence.
If you are someone who has seen Arjun Reddy, then this movie has nothing new to offer you. From camera angles, shot division to the placement of words in dialogues, Kabir Singh is a ditto version of Arjun Reddy. So the criticism and praise you applied for Arjun Reddy are valid for Kabir Singh as well. I personally wasn’t a big fan of Arjun Reddy as it ultimately became that old school movie in terms of politics by making the heroine accept an abusive relationship and also the inclusion of the outdated way of keeping her sanctity to please the ego of a hero who just doesn’t have anything good in him. What I am saying is entirely from a personal perspective. There may be couples who are okay with unreasonable behavior in a relationship. But from the foundation itself, the romance in Kabir Singh is entirely from a male point of view and that extremely misogynistic point of view is never questioned in this movie.
Shahid Kapoor is superb in being the truly unlikeable man-child named Kabir Singh. He has managed to make Kabir different from Tommy Singh, another eccentric he has played. This role is actually an interesting choice for an actor to prove his caliber in terms of range, but what is disheartening is the fact that he chose to go with the terrible point of view of this movie. Kiara Advani is naïve and pretty and that’s all that this movie wants from her. The one actor who should be mentioned in the cast is Sohum Majumdar. He is terrific as that constant companion. Arjan Bajwa, Suresh Oberoi, Kamini Kaushal, Adil Hussain, Nikita Dutta, etc. are the other major names here.
Even Mani Ratnam made a movie titled Kaatru Veliyidei which also featured a problematic male dominant relationship. But that movie at least showed a sensible communication between the protagonists. In Kabir Singh, from the word go, Kabir’s behavior is offensive on all levels. As a viewer, I must say that there is a fascinating aspect to this kind of characterization. But moving on, one would expect the writing to give some explanation for this character’s behavior. Kabir won’t allow anyone to touch Preeti, talk to Preeti, Preeti won’t ask anything to Kabir and she will go with him whenever he asks her to come with him and she suddenly falls in love with this serial harasser. Even when he asks Preeti to come with him in the climax portion, you are not given any solid material to generate any sort of empathy towards this guy who has no idea about the existence of the word consent. Arjun Reddy was a mold breaker in terms of heroism in Telugu movies. The way Sandeep Reddy Vanga creates this character that wears diapers and has anger management issues is interesting. Kabir’s friend trying to save him from getting beaten up by Preeti’s family by threatening to smash a flower pot on an old man is among one of the numerous atypical presentations of typical scenes. The camera angles and the edit pattern maintains that roughness and high of the title character. The music was also pretty good, but I hated the way they abruptly paused songs in between.
As a director, a craftsman, Sandeep Reddy Vanga is a really promising prospect. But as a writer, I would say he is more dangerous than a Luv Ranjan. There is nothing wrong in creating a character like Kabir Singh or Arjun Reddy. But normalizing an abusive relationship by calling their method of insensitive behavior as love is totally unacceptable. A group of boys and girls were sitting behind me while I was watching this film and when a guy complained about the toxic masculinity in the movie the reaction of a girl to another girl was “I told you not to come with a feminist for this movie”. Well, that reaction pretty much explains the acceptance of this problematic film.
There is nothing wrong in creating a character like Kabir Singh or Arjun Reddy. But normalizing an abusive relationship by calling their method of insensitive behavior as love is totally unacceptable