Kabir Singh, starring Shahid Kapoor in the titular role, has sparked a debate over actors’ moral obligations towards society, in terms of the characters they choose to portray on screen. In the film, Shahid plays a controversial role: a great surgeon who in his personal life is an angry, impulsive and alcoholic lover. Shahid’s portrayal of Kabir Singh has been receiving a lot of praise. At the same time, he has received criticism as the movie is being seen as a glorification of sexism, misogyny and violence. However, his mother Neelima Azeem has defended Shahid’s role, by citing examples of great actors, such as Dilip Kumar and Rajesh Khanna, who played characters who were also in the grey area:
"Actors have the freedom to play morally controversial characters because they make for meaty roles. Tomorrow, if you play a psychopathic serial killer, will everybody watching the movie become one? Dilip (Kumar) and Rajesh Khanna played grey roles in Amar and Red Rose. Are you suggesting that every grey role be scrapped?”
"In Hollywood, actors have won Oscars for characters like these. If we can’t make such movies, then we will have to scrap films like Marlon Brando’s A Streetcar Named Desire, Godfather and Heath Ledger’s Joker (The Dark Knight). One needs to understand that it is a story and not a lecture on morality," she said.
Neelima further added that the film does not laud Kabir Singh’s aggressive and impulsive nature, but actually warns people of the negative consequences of such extreme behaviour patterns. Defending the introductory scene of the film — where Kabir is going to rape a woman, while pointing a knife at her — she highlights how it is a symbolic scene, as Kabir is going to rape a woman in the dark but realises his mistake as soon as the light comes on.