This post will have spoilers, because it’s more of an analysis of the film than my standard no-spoiler review.
Here we go.
Kabir Singh is a remake of a Telugu movie Arjun Reddy (2017), where a short-tempered house surgeon gets used to drugs and drinks when his girlfriend is forced to marry another person.
The opening scene has Kabir (Shahid Kapoor) and Preeti (Kiara Advani) lying on a bed on a beach. In voiceover, Kabir recites this couplet from the bhakti poet Amir Khusro.
Kabir explains – Those who see chaos in this ocean of love have never loved, while those who are touched by its silence can be separated, but never kept apart.
The scene changes. We have another voiceover. This time it is Kabir’s grandmother (the great Kamini Kaushal in the role). She recites a couplet from saint-poet Kabir.
Chalti chakki dekh kar, kehet Kabira roye,
Do paatan k beech me, saavat bacha na koye.
The gist being that all-powerful and unpredictable Time crushes everyone.
Ostensibly, this is a story of lovers who are separated by time, society and circumstances, but can’t/won’t be kept apart.
Kabir’s family is filthy rich. So rich that we only ever see them at home. Preeti’s family is middle-class. I liked how the film flipped the standard Bollywood premise of poor boy and rich girl. Kabir is no “roadside Romeo,” as he declares to Preeti’s father. He’s a surgeon. There really should be no issues here. But, her father catches them in a smooch on the terrace of his house. Predictably, he’s enraged, and throws Kabir out.
The Entitled Dudeboi:
Kabir says he and Preeti were in their “private space,” which her father infringed on. PDA with your girlfriend on her house’s roof, with the door open, with their family having no idea of your relationship, isn’t “private space,” my dear friend. Had it been behind closed doors, sure. That’s what his grandmother tells him.
Kabir can go to a first year boys’ ongoing class and threaten them to back off Preeti. Why? Because she’s his “girl”. And this is even before he knows her name. Moral: ownership over lover is necessary. She’s his property, after all.
Also, goes in the girls’ class and sees his crush sitting on the 4th bench. He orders her to sit on the first bench instead. Why? Because he can do it, yes, of course. But also, because, those who sit behind the first bench aren’t focussed on studies. Wow! It is another matter that every single day, during class, he’ll take her out. Why? To teach her. She can focus outside too. It’s what toppers do.
At one point later in the film, Kabir says, “Preeti only looked at me. That’s why all this started.” Yeah, right. It’s her fault, isn’t it? She gave him the signal. The goon-in-chief didn’t bully the first-year girl.
The whole beginning of the affair has the malodour of #MeToo. Even without gender lens, such a relationship developing into romance looks more like Stockholm Syndrome than the blossoming of love. It’s another normalisation of the male stalker by Bollywood.
It’s fine for Kabir to kiss Preeti on their first proper meeting. Forget what others will say, even what she thinks is immaterial. Only his idea of love matters.
Side note: Shahid Kapoor sees nothing wrong with the film.
I’m Regressive & I Don’t Know It:
He can mock “healthy” girls as “teddy bears.” Apparently they’re “warm, loyal.” Also, he can get this “healthy chick,” Shruti, to be Preeti’s friend, roommate and benchmate. But Shruti shouldn’t even dare to joke with Preeti about her sex life. Smooth!
Kabir is the topper of the university and the best sportsman. This, apparently, whitewashes everything else. After a fight at the University football tournament final, he tells his father (Suresh Oberoi) to ignore the disciplinary letter he’ll get from the college. Daddy Dearest does that, of course.
Kabir is also The Keeper Of The Family Honour. Preeti is manhandled on Holi by the football fight guy, Amit. Kabir pummels him. Amit has to be the lousiest villain in film history. He gets into physical fights with Kabir twice, and doesn’t even land two punches. The second time, he even promises Kabir that he won’t touch Preeti from now on. Bruh! What sissyness is this in your Macho Man competition?
Also, why does Kabir extract that promise from Amit? Because, hey, she won’t be able to save herself after he’s gone na? The university/college administration is horsecrap. Before he graduates, Kabir needs to make sure Preeti is safe.
Also, Preeti living with him in his hostel room is fine. But, when he’s dropping her for class, her chunni needs to be set proper. Why? “My girl.”
Contrary to all this decency is what he does with two separate women.
Scene 1: A girl is interested in him. But, seeing his overeagerness for sex, she refuses. He threatens her to disrobe, at knifepoint. Images from Arjun Reddy used here. Scenes are same-to-same in Kabir Singh.
Both images courtesy.
I guess we can safely call this a threat to rape.
Scene 2: Chasing his maid to beat her for breaking a glass.
If you have problems with your maid, fire her. You have no right to beat her, or even threaten to do so.
All through the first hour of the film, I kept thinking, is Preeti this alpha male’s lifeless doll? She has no agency. It takes her 65 minutes to force her POV on his for the first time. Our “hero” is now doing M. S. in Mussoorie. Here, Kabir Singh, enfant terrible, is worried about kissing in public in an “orthodox environment.” She overrules him and they kiss. Nice! Maybe she’s a Westworld robot, not a doll.
The director Sandeep Vanga Reddy explained that if you don’t have the liberty to hit your partner, you’re not in love! Here’s the full interview:
Has he heard of domestic violence?
Kabir goes to Preeti’s house and tries to reason with her father. This scene starts excellently, I must say. Kabir is logical. But Preeti’s dad doesn’t want to listen. Then it all goes pear-shaped. Dudebro loses his cool, makes a lewd gesture on the road, goes on a rant, and doesn’t let Preeti say a word. He says that her whole identity in the college is that she’s his girlfriend. Minutes earlier, he propounds that theirs is not a mere college romance. Suddenly, her college reputation is the only thing? What about her academic record? What about her being? All immaterial?
The scene ends with him slapping her hard, and her in tears. This scene is the primary proof that in his mind, Kabir Singh is above every consideration. He’s blind him to all around himself, even his beloved.
She arrives at his home at night, while his brother Karan’s bachelor party is underway.(Side note – Who schedules a bachelor party at their home?). By now, Dudeboi has taken a shot of morphine, and slipped into a 36-hour sleep. He sleeps through both Karan’s marriage and his girlfriend’s marriage. What an absolute legend!
Later, he rails against the typical notions of honour, pride etc. through the film. He even makes a mention of caste, how it’s so ridiculously important to society. Noticeable that he doesn’t use casteist slurs. Maybe writer-director Mr. Reddy made some edits to his Telegu original.
Have a read of this Twitter thread for more.
It amazed me that through months of alcohol, cigarette, and cocaine addiction, Kabir remains the perfectly fit male specimen. Maybe he really is above everyone else.
Our dear friend Kabir is also not a fan of planned parenthood. Per him, there’s no planning needed. Because, a kid “should happen out of love.”
Late in the movie, Kabir’s excesses of drugs and alcohol come back to bite him. A drunk, dehydrated operation puts him in a soup. Here, his lawyer makes an observation to Karan about his “unconventional mindset.”
“It’s not acceptable to be so free-spirited in a democracy.”
I was like, what! A Communist state or an Autocracy would have summarily executed him, instead of giving him a trial. Maybe like Kabir, the lawyer’s also high, all the time.
The movie uses this incident to provide Kabir with a redemption arc. He’s proud of one thing in his life – his career. Hence, he refuses to lie at the hearing and takes the fall. Good. To lie and get out of the fix would’ve been an easy copout. It’d have made him the same “spoilt rich brat” that Preeti’s father alleged he was. A “hero” can’t be that, right?
Later still, there’s a scene where he hugs his father after his grandmother’s death. The compassion that he shows to his father is missing from his own eyes. His dialogues sound like he’s mocking his father. It might have been intended to show how broken he is, but it makes him look more like a psychopath.
The film brings Preeti back at the end after an hour of MIA. The two lovers have a heartfelt discussion, Preeti pays back his tight slap in small installments of soft slaps, and they get back together. Begs the question though. She left her husband after three days, without even allowing him to touch her clothes. Why didn’t she do that before her marriage?
In any case, the whole Singh family gets a group photo, and we return to the beach scene from the opening. We end with a shot of Kabir, Preeti and their son playing together. All’s well that ends well.
I loved the white background end credits.
The music of the film is excellent. Song after song is superb. The way they’ve been used in the film is quite good too.
Shahid Kapoor embodies Kabir completely. The rest of the cast, including Kiara Advani, does decent work.
The 171 minutes of runtime is too long though. Many scenes could’ve been edited. A 30-40 minutes shorter runtime would’ve been better.
What About Wasseypur?
When the film released, I saw people defending it on social media by invoking Gangs Of Wasseypur and other crime films. “How could you like that, and have problems with this?” went the argument. Here’s how.
First, the fabric and boundaries of society mean your average Jignesh won’t pick up a gun or slit throats, even if he has watched Wasseypur 10 times. That’s because society doesn’t endorse criminal behaviour, even if it is afraid of that. On the other hand, society does condone, even encourage and support, violence against women in various patriarchal garbs.
Second, let’s see what happens to the protagonists in the these films. Sardar Khan and Faizal Khan pay the ultimate price for their actions. Kabir declares that he’ll leave all bad habits and reform himself. He gets the girl. He might give up on alcohol and drugs, but he’ll continue being an entitled dude.
Third, consider the women in the films. Nagma (Richa Chaddha), Mohsina (Huma Qureshi), and Durga (Reema Sen), all are feisty. All hold their own against the men. Faizal is the scourge of Wasseypur, but in his relationship with Mohsina, she’s as dominant as he is. On the contrary, Preeti is servile. The less said about the other women in Kabir Singh, the better.
So, ultimately, what to make of Kabir Singh? I think it is important in sparking discussions about what men ought not to be and what kind of role models society doesn’t need. But, I guess, millions might take the wrong lessons. Also, movies aren’t just movies. They’re hugely influential and they shape society.
Kabir Singh is a bully, sex-, drugs-, and alcohol-addict, womaniser, and misanthrope. And I’m not even going to get into how he is the manifestation of the phrases “toxic masculinity” and “misogynist.”
Don’t be like Kabir.
Featured image courtesy.
What are your thoughts on Kabir Singh? Tell me in the comments section.
Thank you for reading.