Kedarnath: Sara Ali Khan is to Kedarnath what Tabu was to Fitoor – a saving grace

Off late, in his films, Abhishek Kapoor seems to be focussing only on how the frame looks, rather than what actually is. Don’t get me wrong, Kedarnath isn’t a bad film, it just doesn’t reach up to Kapoor’s own expectations after Rock On and Kai Po Che. At the hands of weak writing, a clumsy climax and one of the worst VFX editing we might have seen in a major motion picture, Kedarnath might just suffer the fate of Fitoor. The film is beautiful to look at – there are snow capped mountains everywhere, the forest is lush green, Kapoor even provides us with a substitute to Fitoor’s Katrina Kaif – Sara Ali Khan. The only difference between these two leading ladies is that the latter, the much newer one can act, and oh-so-beautifully.

Kedarnath is primarily a love story between an upper-class Hindu girl (Mandakini/Mukku, played by Sara Ali Khan) and a lower-class Muslim boy (Mansoor, played by Sushant Singh Rajput). These two have three battles to fight – religion, class and eventually the floods. Director Abhishek Kapoor and writer Kanika Dhillon (Manmarziyan) base this love story against the devastating floods of Uttarakhand (2013) and how love conquers all. The premise is great, the story is great too. But what doesn’t work is the writing, the screenplay. Though the film has a runtime of just 180 minutes and is perfectly edited, there isn’t much meat to it.

What acts against the film is the fact that¬†Mukku and Mansoor’s love story isn’t something new. It’s refreshing but we know how this works. Girl and boy fall in love, parents protest, girl protests, a sibling helps the girl out and out, girl is married off to someone else against her wishes, boy comes to save her, change of hearts and now it’s too late. Why Kedarnath is refreshing is perhaps because of how it’s shot and also because of the characters, especially Mukku.

Mukku is like a hangover of Rumi (Manmarziyan) mixed with the emotional quotient of Anjali and the fearlessness of Geet, while maintaining both their happy quotient.

It seems like Dhillon carved two Rumi’s and named one Mandakini. Mukku is strong headed, she’s like the ‘boys’ – speaks what’s in her mind, watches cricket and makes the first move in her relationship with Mansoor. And Sara Ali Khan becomes all of this. In the hope to live up to the expectations that come with her name, Khan gives Mukku her everything. Instead of portraying this village girl, she becomes her. You can see the effort, the homework she might have done. But what you can also see are the Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla outfits and the make up, done by Pompy Hans. This is the problem I had with Dhadak too (Manish Malhotra in Janhvi Kapoor’s case). Are debut actresses, who come with a legacy so wary of their screen presence that they need their favourite designers to make sure they at least look good?

When I say “Sara Ali Khan is to Kedarnath what Tabu was to Fitoor – a saving grace” in the title of this review, I don’t mean Khan is an actor as talented as Tabu. No debut actor can be that. It’s almost impossible for even other leading ladies, those who have been in the business for a while, to match up to that. But what I want to put across is that both Fitoor and Kedarnath have had amazing premises, but both haven’t worked cinematically, at least for me. I love Fitoor, I really do, but only because of Tabu. And I loved Kedarnath, only because of Sara Ali Khan.

Khan is genuinely the itr Amitabh Bhattacharya talks about in the song Qaafirana. 

Opposite Sara Ali Khan is Sushant Singh Rajput. While Khan gets her moments to shine, Singh Rajput falters. It’s not like he isn’t given his moments, but he just doesn’t shine. He overdoes his expressions and that is the end of him in this film. Like Khan he too gets into the character well and begins off really great but just a few minutes into the film, you stop seeing Mansoor and see Singh Rajput play “the Sushant Singh Rajput,” and hence, Kedarnath suffers. Don’t get me wrong, Mansoor is a well written character, just not worthy of Singh Rajput’s pompousness.

What acts as another curse to the film is the inclusion of too many things. A lot is going on at the same time, between the same people. Mukku and Mansoor are fighting three battles, as mentioned earlier, the film tries to hint on the perils of commercialisation, and like a cliche Hindi film, blames the floods on the fact that people didn’t agree on love – love, which was flowered by God himself. The film also talks about hope and belief and how these two are the pillars of our strengths.

The songs, except Namo Namo, don’t make so much of an impact and seem a little forced into the narrative. Unlike Fitoor (why am I comparing so much?) there isn’t a seamless conjoining of the songs into the storytelling. They’re good to listen to, but not in the film.

All in all, Kedarnath is a treat to the visual eye and Sara Ali Khan commands respect for her acting skills and proves that she is the future of Hindi Cinema, but the writing falters in most places.

If I had to rate the film, 50 outfit changes (minimum), Sara Ali Khan would have had and they’re all from AJSK. Thodi zaada mehnat writing mein bhi kar lete…

2 Stars

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