Love in the time of tragedy.
Bollywood’s obsession with love stories that attempt to break boundaries set by religious and societal disparities gets a revival of sorts in Abhishek Kapoor’s Kedarnath. Here, he mounts a bittersweet romance in the magnificent temple town of Kedarnath where pilgrims are quick to appease their gods but are reluctant to value people of different faiths.
It’s when nature’s fury strikes with a devastating force that their vulnerability and inadequacies come to the fore. The narrative is unimaginatively predictable, one that Mani Ratnam had marvellously mastered in his 1995-blockbuster Bombay. However, Kapoor is unable to ignite that same brilliance on his canvas.
A possibly bigger budget for special effects would’ve uplifted the movie to greater heights but shoddy patchworks at crucial points and an unoriginal soppy climax derides the movie of finesse. Yet, Kapoor manages to reduce much of the damage and he’s got co-writer Kanika Dhillon to thank for creating a few poignant moments.
Together, they brilliantly capture the irony behind our blinded faith. For a nation united by their love for cricket and obsession to defeat Pakistan on the pitch, we fail to admit to our own prejudices and insecurities. We watch a girl and a boy, bounded by their love for the game but separated by religion, sit together and cheer their country to victory. But the game refuses to ignite the same passion when their hearts are broken. Or, when he names his leading lady after the river Mandakini that had wreaked havoc in Kedarnath in 2013 and his man after the lady’s (real) grandfather.
However, those moments of brilliance are far too few. For most parts, Kapoor takes the easier way out. He focuses entirely on the love story and refuses to let any other conflict take centre stage. And, that’s unfortunate. Especially since the mammoth proportions of the 2013 disaster is reduced to the end, purely with the intention of manipulating us.
The filmmaker also lets his actors, Tushar Kanti Ray’s marvellous camerawork, striking set designs and Amit Trivedi’s spectacular tunes to do much of the work. And, that’s where it shows. It’s soulless but pretty.
He stacks his cards impressively during the first half but is unable to keep up the momentum in the second. Sara Ali Khan makes a decent start as the spirited Mandakini, showcasing striking similarities to her mother (yesteryear actor Amrita Singh) and also Kareena Kapoor-Khan’s much-loved Geet. There’s a sense of ease in front of the camera, and a refreshing nonchalance with which she carries herself. But Mandakini isn’t allowed to flourish and is often made to play her rebel-without-a-cause crusade in one tone.
Sushant Singh Rajput is effortless, but unsure how to lend charisma and charm to his character, Mansoor. The supporting cast is left to play their parts in a single stroke. Nishant Dahiya is the perpetually angry, fanatical lover, while Alka Amin is forever suspicious and miserable mother of the boy. Sonali Sachdev plays the eternally obedient and watchful mother of the girl while Pooja Gor slips in as the scheming but loving sister and Nitish Bharadwaj as the pious father.
At over two hours of screen time, the drill turns tedious and tiresome, and sinks into a mushy mess in the end, never ever coming together as a wholesome movie.