The problem with Kabir Singh is not the character, Kabir, but the way in which he has been treated and portrayed.
Here’s a man broken in love, a victim of alcohol and drug abuse, he conducts his surgeries while he is drunk out of his mind, threatens to rape women, picks them up for sex, kisses them without consent. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a character like this. But when you show him as a “hero”, that’s where the problem arises.
Director Sandeep Reddy Vanga has a great character to play with and Shahid Kapoor does full justice to him. Don’t get me wrong, I am not praising Kabir Singh. But as a character, Kabir indeed has potential if he was portrayed as a monster and not as a damsel in distress waiting for his Preeti (Kiara Advani) to leave everything that comprises her life for him. There’s nothing wrong in telling stories of problematic men, weak women in love and a relationship between these two people. But you cannot have an entire country believe that this is the way to be.
While I was sitting in the theatre, I heard a young girl, aged about 14-15, who sat next to me, say multiple times, “he’s so sweet, he’s so caring,” while many a men were clapping and whistling and praising Kabir Singh when he physically abuses Preeti. Of course, I blame the men and women around me who are propagating this idea and making Kabir a hero but I largely blame the writers, makers, actors even for agreeing to put this idea in our heads, and treating Kabir as a normal character. I’m sorry, he’s not a normal character, who we need to remember.
So many people – people I know, people on Twitter and other social media platforms and those I am unaware of – have praised Kabir Singh left, right and centre, not realising the repercussions of a character like this in a country where male ego and patriarchy are still a huge burden. Here is a film where the female lead is completely ignored – in terms of screen time and characterisation – which is not okay because this is a story about Kabir’s mad obsession with her. In fact Advani’s first dialogue is about 40 minutes into the film and she says, “Kabir, what do you like in me?” I get it, the film is about his obsession, his love, but that does not mean you don’t make Preeti a solid character. She is the reason for his suffering but we don’t even know what’s up with her. She goes out of the picture for eight months, that’s a long time.
Performance wise, Shahid Kapoor does a great job and Kiara Advani really has a warm screen presence and delivers to whatever extent her character allows her to, but I will choose to not talk about the performances because they chose to be a part of such a problematic film. Had Kabir been shown as someone we should not look up to, this would’ve been Kapoor’s career best film and a breakthrough for Advani. But since the film wants us to believe in the machoism and righteousness of Kabir, Haider and Lust Stories fit in the brackets.
This is not the only problem with Kabir Singh. There’s fat shaming, the notion that men don’t cry, a lot of misogyny and sexism and so much more. It’s 2019; you can’t serve us a film where it’s okay to say that “healthy chicks are like teddy bears. Healthy chicks and beautiful chicks make a good combination. Friends ban jao, in fact, roommates bhi ban jao.” I don’t know what that even meant.
All in all, Kabir Singh is a film that we don’t deserve in this day and age, because we are over toxic men and their toxic masculinity.
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