Finally, I watched Kabir Singh. I must admit that it was sheer peer pressure that made me watch it. Much like the Game of Thrones, which I am about to start viewing the next.
I’ve been coaxed to watch Arjun Reddy by so many of my friends and acquaintances, but I’ve been putting it off for several reasons. I didn’t find the trailer, songs, or any of the scenes appealing enough. I found some of the scenes quite cringy and off-putting, to be honest.
Then came Kabir Singh, and there was a barrage of strongly opinionated articles for and against the movie. Now, I was intrigued. There was Sucharita Tyagi’s hilarious Not A Movie Review version. Rajeev Masand’s review, and Anupama Chopra infamous interview of Sandeep Reddy Vanga, the director.
I must admit that a lot of my friends loved Arjun Reddy and Kabir Singh. Ironically, most of them women. I decided to finally cave into peer pressure and watch the movie to know what the fuss was all about.
I forcefully sat through the entire movie. Forcefully because I’ve somewhere outgrown juvenile love-stories. I was never into the romance genre, to be honest. I couldn’t get past a few pages of Mills & Boons how hard I tried as a teenager. I was that hopeless. But yes, I enjoyed watching Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Dil Toh Pagal Hai back then. Don’t ask me to sit through those movies now as I’ve entirely outgrown them.
But I can see why Arjun Reddy or Kabir Singh became such a massive hit. It gets a lot of things right. It keeps its love story raw and real. Flawed and relatable.
Kabir Singh, the protagonist, is not your typical Bollywood hero. He has cockiness plastered on his face 24/7. He is brutally honest to the point of being outrightly rude and offensive. Think Trump! Clearly not a likeable or remotely loveable character. “Despicable Me” would be an apt description for Kabir Singh.
Now do girls fall for such guys?
Kabir Singh is supposedly a prodigy. An academic topper, whose astutely sharp with serious anger management issues. He’s masculinity personified. No one messes with him — not even senior professors in his university. Add to that he’s a good-looking guy. Let’s get real here! I’m not sure how many women will refuse a handsome achiever despite his personality flaws.
Anyway, in walks Priti in his life. One day, out-of-the-blue, when he decides to quit his college. They exchange intense glances, and he’s forever hooked. He tears up his resignation letter and resumes college to get closer to Priti.
Is Priti submissive and docile?
No. Priti is anything but a docile doormat. If you watch their first meet, she matches Kabir’s glance, eye-to-eye. She’s as interested in Kabir as much as he’s interested in her. She expresses her intent clearly through her come-hither looks. And Kabir takes the cue and plays along.
Kabir goes around, marking his territory and wards off all potential suitors in the college. Now, does Priti protest? No. She willingly plays along because she loves Kabir as well. If not more. Just because Kabir is the more vocally expressive one, we see that. But Priti is just as possessive and madly in love with Kabir.
When he kisses her publicly, she doesn’t protest. When they are working together, she makes the first move. She holds his hand, indicating that she wants to get closer physically to him. When they part, she doesn’t want to let go off Kabir. She comes all the way to where he is and demands that he kisses her publicly.
If you ask me, Priti is the boss in the relationship here. Everyone else fears Kabir and bows down to him, but not Priti. Priti knows precisely which buttons to push. Kabir Singh is like a remote control in her hand. A deadly one at that.
Now, let’s get into the slapping business. Much ado over nothing if you ask me. Priti slaps Kabir first when they are about to part. Then there’s another scene where her father strongly disapproves of her relationship with Kabir, and Kabir slaps Priti for failing to stand up for their relationship. He tells her,
“What do you want me to do? Where is that woman in you? You look at me like you own me. Be that woman in front of your father and tell him that this is no college puppy love but the real deal.”
And when she refuses to take a stand in front of her father, he slaps her and gives her 6 hours to make up her mind, or he curses her to live a life of her father’s choice.
And then in the climax scene, Priti slaps Kabir hard several times. So the score is Priti vs Kabir: 2-1. Priti’s the clear winner in the slapping game. On a serious note though, from a writer’s perspective, the slaps were in each of those scenes for a clear purpose. It wasn’t glorification of violence, but of human nature, and failing.
And then you know, the cliched twist kicks into the plot here. Kabir learns that Priti is married, tries hard to stop the wedding but to no avail. All hell lets loose after that. He’s an emotional wreck. He tries taking refuge in cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, and even women. There’s an actress who comes in as a patient. And he makes an indecent proposal to her – to have a strictly physical relationship and nothing more. The minute she starts talking of love, he gets mad and abandons her without even thinking twice. I told you, not a very likeable guy! But, he’s honest. He’s not tried to hoodwink the actress or bed her with soothing lies. He’s an emotional wreck without Priti and turns into the beast himself.
He’s desperate for Priti to the extent that he wants her back under any cost. He learns that she’s pregnant with another man’s (read her husband) child. And yet he goes in search of her in the hope of getting her back. He wants to convince her to leave her husband and come with him. He’ll be the father to her child. Crazy it sounds, I know!
In the climax, we have a pregnant Priti and desperate Kabir. Priti is livid when she sees him. She asks him to go away from her sight and that she doesn’t have anything to do with him anymore. Kabir pleads with her to talk to him just once.
They have a heart-to-heart talk where Priti stands her ground. She blasts Kabir for having the nerve to curse her to live with her father’s choice. And his nerve to give her only 6 hours to make up her mind knowing fully well the restrictions imposed on her at home. She tells him that he brought it upon himself, so why cry over spilled milk now? She asks him to go back to his actress girlfriend and get out of her sight. But Priti sees for herself a desolate Kabir, she calls him back. Asks him to come closer to her and then reveals the truth about how she’s pregnant with his child. And how she left the marriage after three days and didn’t come back to Kabir after seeing reports of his affair with an actress in the paper.
So, we have a level playing field here. Kabir has evolved from being that guy who goes around marking his territory and bashing guys who dared touch his bandi (girl) to accepting a married and pregnant with another man’s child, Priti. Priti refuses to go back to Kabir after learning of his affair with an actress. However, she welcomes him back to her life once she meets and gauges him for herself.
So, you see, Kabir Singh is not your typical Karan Johar or Yash Chopra love story. But it’s still a love story that celebrates monogamy. A rarity in today’s times. This is clearly the USP of the movie and why it clicked in such a big way.
Kabir Singh might not be my cup of tea. Too much melodrama to my liking. But he’s a character with some veritable strengths such as honesty, courage etc. and some concerning flaws. Kabir Singh is a very dark and complex character. The last protagonist that I saw who was messed up was Ved, played by Ranbir Singh in Tamasha.
Overall, I found most of the criticism for the movie unwarranted except a few which were valid. There’s a body-shaming scene in the film where Kabir tells Priti which girlfriend she must choose. That scene was shameful. There were other cringy scenes in the movie too. Like the scene, where Kabir chases the maidservant or forces a woman to undress at knifepoint! The former scene was supposed to be funny but I found the joke in very poor taste. The latter scene was plain despicable. “Despicable me” protagonist, remember?
But, there are girls like Priti who fall in love with guys like Kabir (sans the prodigious achiever part). I know of such women, and you wonder why! But it’s their choice and life. So, all you can do is wish them well and hope they live happily ever after. I would never remotely date a guy like Kabir Singh, leave alone marrying him. So, you know my stand here.
Coming to the performances, much has been raved about Shahid’s acting. But I found Kiara’s acting subtle and nuanced. Wonder why not much has been spoken about her performance. Contrary to some reviews, she has enough lines in the movie. She plays a screened character who is the stark opposite of Kabir. She talks less, and is less expressive. But that doesn’t make her dumb, or a doormat. She’s just as feisty as Kabir Singh, but differently. Their chemistry is good in the movie. From a writer’s perspective alone, Sandeep Reddy Vanga has crafted an interesting love story. A sugary DDLJ or KKHH won’t work in today’s times. Arjun Reddy or Kabir Singh is a dark and deliciously twisted love story. Songs are a crucial aspect in a romantic movie. Vanga takes care of that department as well.
As I said earlier, had it not been for peer pressure and the heated media debates over the movie, I would have never watched Kabir Singh. It’s just not my cup of tea or love-story. Because real life is not a phillum.
What if Priti’s child was her husband’s and not Kabir’s?
What if Priti fell in love with her husband and found him a better choice than Kabir?
What if Kabir found out that Priti has moved on with her life?
Would he resort to blackmailing and kidnapping her?
Or would he go into a self-destruction mode and commit suicide?
Or would he end up being a cynical Joker, losing faith in all women and a psychopath who goes around murdering his female patients?
Or would Kabir Singh meet another woman, fall in love, and live happily ever after?