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Rebel Without A Pause, Kabir Singh Is Arjun Reddy Reloaded

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Kabir Singh

Starring: Shahid Kapoor, Kiara Advani, Suresh Oberoi,Arjan Bajwa, Kamini Kaushal

Written  &  Directed : Sandeep Vanga

Rating:****(4 stars)

Remakes,  more often than not, disappoint. This one doesn’t.  Kabir Singh doesn’t quite better its precursor, the astonishing game-changing  Telugu  film Arjun Reddy .And really Shahid  Kapoor is no patch  on VijayDeverakonda, who sweated, bled and  urinated(literally) into his despicably misogynistic  character , investing   into this weird thoroughly reprehensible  child-man a kind of  contemporary resonance that makes for a bizarre blend  of Devdas ,  James Dean and all the rebels without a  pause that we’ve encountered  before  and after Bachchan’s Angry Young Man.

 The  question is, Kabir Singh(nee Arjun Reddy)  ko gussa kyon aata hai? Not unlike Naseeruddin Shah’s Albert  Pinto,  Shahid Kapoor’s Kabir Singh is a very troubled  livid  man threatening swearing drinking and  fornicating his way through  a life  and  support system . It  makes  you wonder why Kabir has  it. The  life and  the support system.

 It  is strange beyond all definition  of strangeness that this thankless  self-absorbed  foul-mouthed  ill -tempered  Kabir is  loved and  protected by  a cordon of family colleagues and best friend Shiva(Soham Majumdar) who seem to see some sort  of sublimity behind Kabir’s uncouth behaviour which we  the audience can’t.

It’s not easy to  like Arjun or  his  revamped avatar Kabir. The character is  so flawed  and fractured so fuelled and  felled by its own  inbuilt anger that  every move he makes seems one more step towards  selfannihilation.

Writer-director Sandeep Vanga gives his anti-hero  the  full slowburn treatment. There  is  no effort to show Kabir in a kind light.And that’s for the  best. The  only we can accept this  “protagonist” is  if we  don’t analyze his raging aberrations.It takes all sorts to  build this godforsaken universe  that we occupy. Kabir Singh  is as low-level as  it gets for humanity.

 Not  surprisingly  Kabir a senior intern in a medical  college  succeeds in bullying the timid  tremulous  medical student Preeti  into believing he is fallen so  passionately  in love with her  she must reciprocate in kind. What follows  is an embarrassing array  of  stalking scenes and   a stream  of  smooches and  love-making , all indicating a very high level of  subverted intensity in  a man whose morals equal that of an alley cat.

 The  brilliance  of this film about  rebellion  love and  selfdestruction resides in the rawness of the scenes and the  hurtful nature of  words that  characters use against one  another. The  dialogues capture Kabir’s  shocking lack  ofselfcontrol. In the  second-half when Preeti has rightly dumped  Kabir he  asks  a female friend , a Madhuri Dixit  lookalike(Nikita Dutta) if she would like to  satisfy his  “physical needs” with no strings attached(certainly none in his pyjamas) .This obnoxious  offer  is made  in the tone  of  a demi-God bestowing a   favour to a subject.

Shahid  Kapoor plays  this  toxic intoxicated  man with a furious flair for  seething emotions. His Kabir simmers with discontent. But the  performance lacks the  freshness of what Vijay Deverakonda  brought to the character in  the  original Telugu  version.Also, I felt the venomous emotions  though expressed  with a disturbing sincerity , never  quite reach  Shahid’s eyes. Here is an actor in  full control  of his   character’s  uncontrollable  emotions, not quite able to process those emotions  to their fullest. A flawed  but nonetheless remarkable  performance.

 That  the character obtains his redemption  at the end is  only because  the screenplay wants to be kind to him. This man deserves  no second  or third chances.Making the redemptive  moment unbearably undeserved  is Kiara Advaniwhose emotional outburst at  Shahid’s  reformative whining flies  everywhere as though making a  last-bid effort to match her co-star’s  ongoing hysteria , like  a man pms-ing  throughout the month(Kabir’s best friend’s description).

 Though at times  Kabir Singh gets as flawed as  its protagonist  it  is nonetheless  one of the most important  films in  living memory, right  up there with Dil Chahta Hai and  Rang De Basanti in divulging what the young  urban Indian male  thinks of  the plans life makes for  him.

Kabir Singh is the classic middle-finger film. Its hero is  so  consumed by his  anger he can’t see how angry he makes  others feel with his  insensitive behaviour. At the  end  we are left feeling as bereft as  the  people who  stand by Kabir.  They don’t deserve this. But we do. 

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