Strapping surgeon Kabir Singh, an emotionally damaged and cocky man-child, isn’t instantly adorable. This bitter human pill is domineering and a paragon of toxic masculinity.
The woman of his dreams, the absolutely virginal Preeti (Kiara Advani), is suitably submissive and passive. Both have this crazy emotional and physical codependence that could decimate this warped pair.
But actor Shahid Kapoor makes the toxic title character devastatingly humane and vulnerable with his knockout performance as a high-functioning alcoholic in ‘Kabir Singh’.
Kapoor, who looks decidedly dishy in an unkempt beard, is outstanding as this decaying lover. He’s violent and virile, determined to destroy himself over a messy break-up. His attention towards punishing himself is riveting and he’s the human equivalent of a train-wreck that you can’t help rubber neck. Kabir stops you in your tracks with his uninhibited act. The scenes in which he rages around like a bull or comes unhinged is absolute gold.
Advani holds her own too with a sensitively nuanced performance as Preeti.
Be warned, her submissiveness and silence can be annoying. But there’s an interesting shift in the couple’s dynamic towards the end where she wields some power.
Initially, it’s the testosterone-fuelled Kabir who pulls the shots in the courtship. She’s his junior in college and in life too.
The way in which he courts her in college and marks her as his property is disturbing, archaic and regressive.
The feminist who yearns for gender parity in films may die a natural death in this film, but the actors make this puerile narrative palatable.
The dynamics of love, lust and letting go is also explored.
It was also refreshing to see a pair of mainstream, popular actors attempt to show the unsavoury, bitter parts of a relationship. ‘Kabir Singh’ explores the complex dynamics of love and lust with a discerning eye.
This electrifying couple — who have a tendency to slap each other several times when frustrated — may also make you wonder if they need a therapist more than love in their lives.
While the first half is filled with episodes of a swashbuckling Kapoor acquiring his trophy girlfriend, it’s the second half of the film that hooked me in.
Kabir’s fall from misogynistic grace is well-captured and actor Soham Majumdar as his supportive, enabling best friend complements him. All the actors in this well-cast film do their bits to elevate this love story.
While the film doesn’t explain why Preeti finds Kabir desirable, a lot of screen time dwells on why Kabir yearns for the woman of his life. But there’s no denying that these two have good chemistry between them.
In this film, relationships come across as a blood sport where the risk of injury is high and only the strongest screw-up will survive.
‘Kabir Singh’ is truly the survival of the despicable. Their collective action — when they break up — is a crash course on self-flagellation.
It’s also a much-needed departure from the usual syrupy Bollywood love stories that showcase grand gestures.
Put a ring on ‘Kabir Sigh’ if you are in the mood for watching a love story that’s wonderfully wicked and warped.
Film: Kabir Singh
Director: Sandeep Reddy Vanga
Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Kiara Advani, Soham Majumdar, Arjun Bajwa, Suresh Oberoi
Stars: 3.5 out of 5