The only thing romantic about Kabir Singh is the songs taken out of context. It’s a flawed drama that sells a mad man as a true romantic, a toxic relationship as true love. Kabir Singh might not be a tragic movie, but it is a tragedy for Bollywood.
Yes, Shahid Kapoor plays Kabir with genuine sincerity. He commands every scene he is in; you can see the anger and the madness in his eyes. Shahid’s conviction shows the psychopathic tendencies in Kabir. But, he gives Kabir a complexity that you will find to be nonexistent. Kabir is just a madman who suffers for no reason and then stops suffering… for no reason. In that, the story does an injustice to its own protagonist.
But a far greater injustice is done to Preeti ( Kiara Advani ). Kabir chooses Preeti as his girl ( ‘meri bandi’ ) on her first day of college and takes charge of her entire life; he chooses her roommates, her friends and threatens all boys to stay away from her. He doesn’t even let her stay back two days without him even when she begs for it. In one scene when Preeti asks Kabir why he loves her, he replies, ‘ I love the way you breathe’. Preeti has absolutely no agency of her own. And she is fine with it. In fact, she loves Kabir madly. But the story does nothing to explore her madness. What makes her love him even when he insults her father and slaps her and threatens her? Why does she not want her own identity?
That would be too much to ask from writer and director Sandeep Vanga. There is so much to explore here. Kabir is such a unique character. He is a borderline psychopath, an irreverent bully, and a complete jerk. His only mode of expressing his feelings, when he is not drowning them in alcohol, is anger. And anger itself has so many dimensions to it. Anger can be fruitful if channelized, futile if untamed. Anger is often a result of contrasting feelings of guilt, love, hurt and insecurity. Anger is complicated, self-destruction is philosophical.
Kabir Singh does not even begin scraping at these ideas. It does not ask any questions. It does not show the real repercussions of abuse. It just cares about valorizing this ridiculous man as a hopeless romantic. Sandeep Vanga has written problematic situations for laughs to entice the audiences. Kabir forces a woman at knifepoint to have sex with him when she says no, he runs after his domestic worker to hit her because she broke his glass. Hell, he even slaps Preeti when her father angers him! And Sandeep Vanga still wants us to understand his love?
This movie is not simply a tragedy because its storytelling is uninventive, the sound mixing is poor, and editing just straight-up bad. It is a tragedy because it justifies emotional, physical and verbal abuse towards women if ‘ Ishq mei junoon hai’. It promotes toxic relationships in which a hypermasculine man dominates a submissive woman where neither of them has an identity outside of that paradigm.
When there are hordes of people raving about this movie as I write this review, I can’t help but wonder who will take responsibility when someone gets inspired by Shahid Kapoor’s Kabir Singh and makes the wrong choices? Recent history has shown that Bollywood stars love making money from their fans, but don’t like taking responsibility for the same influence that made them money.
To See or Not To See? : Read any article on toxic masculinity or abusive relationships!
Review written by Siddhant Chawla the winner of this week’s #YourReviewOnFC contest