Love in the land of Shiva. Or what political polarisers prefer to call it: Love jihad. Muslim pitthoo Mansoor falls in love with Pahadi Pandit’s daughter Mukku. What happens next in 2013 Kedarnath is a no-brainer. Right after the teaser of Kedarnath the film released, grey clouds had shrouded the very idea of the film. Protests calling for a ban on the film erupted, with comments like ‘But how can a Hindu girl fall in love with a Muslim boy in lord’s abode, Kedarnath?’ leading the way. But India has gotten tired of protests now and thankfully, the film is finally in theatres.
Kedarnath launches Bollywood actors Amrita Singh and Saif Ali Khan’s daughter Sara Ali Khan in a role that oscillates between doing justice to her and not. Sara Ali Khan plays Mukku in the newest tale of star-cross’d lovers, set against the background of the June 2013 Uttarakhand floods. The holy town of Kedarnath through director Abhishek Kapoor’s camera comes to life. But take away the optics and it is left with little to stand on.
Director Abhishek Kapoor and actor Sushant Singh Rajput return to the big screen with a collaboration after 2013’s Kai Po Che. That film, based on Chetan Bhagat’s book The Three Mistakes of My Life, serves as the occasional muse for director Abhishek Kapoor. He picks up elements from his own work and strews them here and there in Kedarnath. There is a Hindu-Muslim riot angle too in Kedarnath that is glossed over, like much of the main talking points of the film.
The character arcs of both Mukku and Mansoor, Kedarnath’s protagonists, are underdeveloped. You want to feel for both Mukku and Mansoor, but sob-stories can only do so much and no more. The story of Kedarnath, written by Abhishek Kapoor and Kanika Dhillon (whose last film, Manmarziyaan was decently written), does not cut through you the way a poignant tale should, the kind Kedarnath aspired to be but could not. And that’s a real shame because the film gets a solid performance from debutante Sara Ali Khan and a commendable one from Sushant.
Newcomer Sara displays the potential to go far in her career. Director Abhishek Kapoor throws in a scene with Sara and Sushant taking shelter from the rain in a cave; a scene that pays its own tribute to the song Badal Yoon Garajta Hai from Amrita Singh’s debut film Betaab.
While Sara makes a radiant debut as Mukku, there are moments when her acting comes across as *acting*. Her efforts – at times a little too much – are visible in the film. But Kedarnath is her first film. Some of it can be overlooked. Sushant Singh Rajput brings his Kai Po Che freshness to the role of Mansoor and one can be hopeful that the Raabta days are behind him now.
But the actors’ performances cannot save the lack of involvement in the story that Kedarnath betrays. All of it looks superficial, done from a distance. When you see the film, you know that it is not happening to you. You cannot be part of this smalltown life, thanks to the way the film unfolds over the course of exactly two hours.
What harms the film further is that the filmmakers probably gave away a little too much in the promos and songs. The story was known. The execution was what was to be seen. Sadly, Kedarnath the film too is washed away by the floods before your mind can start thinking about it. What stays are the characters. And, to use a word from Mansoor, the ‘malaal’ (regret) at seeing the way the film is handled.
The writers, Kapoor and Dhillon, use a George Eliotesque punishment in Kedarnath. A regression has happened. A Hindu girl and a Muslim boy have fallen in love. The land has to be purged. So the filmmakers, aware of the present-day climate of the country, use a convenient climax in Kedarnath. It is this that keeps Kedarnath from becoming something different. The music, the cinematography, the setting; Kedarnath ends up squandering everything that is good in it. Watch the film for Sara Ali Khan. The girl will surprise us.
Kedarnath starring Sushant Singh Rajput marks the big Bollywood debut of star kid Sara Ali Khan. The film is directed by Abhishek Kapoor. Actors Sara and Sushant shine in Kedarnath but the film drowns, says our review.