Many southern movies, when re-made for all-India audience fail to connect with the audience the way the original did. Kabir Singh falls in that category. There’s something off-tone about the film, it still feels like it was made for a different kind of audience. To start off, the leading man’s characterization is extreme. Life has been kind to Kabir (Shahid Kapoor). Born in a well-off and loving family, he is excellent in studies and is on to a fine medical career. But for no reason, he has a sour mood and a volatile temper that is I believe indicative of his rebel nature. But by all means, he comes across more as a self-entitled spoilt brat. He is a self-absorbed person and more importantly, everyone around him is there to pander to his wants. The way students scoot away at his mere sight, you would be excused to think he was a Mafioso rather than a medical student. He has friends who are ready to marry off their sister to him to make him feel better about life, never mind that he is already an alcoholic and a drug addict to boot.
On the other end of the spectrum is Preeti (Kiara Advani) who appears to be having a speech problem. Her body language and confidence would probably equal an abused girl’s. And abused she does get, by Kabir. But it’s all “pyaar”, so it’s all right. It is ok that Kabir feels and behaves that he owns her. He threatens all the male students in her class to be away from her and she is grateful for the deed. Not only that, he even gets messages sent to her girlfriends about what kind of questions they could ask Preeti. He takes her out of class and she meekly follows. Kabir’s friends are less friends and more minions. Their whole job in college and even after is to make life easy for our Kabir. They get hostel vacated so that the in-love couple can have privacy. How they got it done without a whimper of protest is a mystery.
Soon the film moves into splitsville territory and Preeti disappears from Kabir’s life and the film too. Kabir goes into full Devdas mode, but adding drugs to his alcohol routine. To his credit, he keeps performing as a surgeon while high. We are supposed to believe he is an exemplary doctor and drugs and alcohol in his system would have had no impact on his capability as a doctor. Suspension of belief is an important ally to sit through this film. The film goes through many twists and turns, including a film actress falling so bad for our doctor that she agrees to a no-friends-but-with-benefits relationship with him. By the time the film ends, I was just happy that I was done with this massively misplaced sense of machismo.
Shahid Kapoor is decent considering that his character lacks any sense of rationality. Kiara Advani simply has to look scared and helpless throughout the film, which she does effortlessly. Background score is super jarring. Even a step the hero takes has to be accompanied by music signifying something important is happening. Songs are average.
Kabir Singh is a film that seemingly is a proponent of liberated thought but the presentation screams regressive behaviour throughout. Basically, the film has one message- whatever Kabir does is right, be it stalking the girl, working while intoxicated or bullying people around him. We are all Kabir’s cheerleaders. I am counting myself out.