'Kabir Singh' movie review: Ode to all meninist-incels

A still from the film 'Kabir Singh'.

Director: Sandeep Reddy Vanga
Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Kiara Advani, Arjan Bajwa
Score: 0.5/5 stars

There is a scene in Kabir Singh, somewhere in the final third, where two characters exchange a brotherhood-of-man dialogue atop a balcony that made me want to take my sandal off and throw it at the screen. This one scene, if you have the misfortune of seeing it, perpetuates the misogynistic, patriarchal myth of the love of a good woman being the only cure for bad boy syndrome, and pats itself on the back for doing so.

Kabir Singh, a remake of Telugu hit Arjun Reddy, had no reason to exist. And yet that it does, and that it got the audience clapping and whistling and laughing in the movie hall, speaks eminently to the debasement of cinema in our country. 

Don’t get me wrong. I love me some bad boy fables. There usually is a redemptive streak to any bad boy character you’ve read or heard about: he loves pets, is kind towards older folk, communes with nature, is artistic, has a heart of gold, is a feminist, can give backrubs, what have you. But never has toxic masculinity been given free reign onscreen like with Kabir Singh. This is tone-deaf testosterone on steroids, coated in speed, wrapped in so-called machismo, tied up with shrooms, and let loose on poor unsuspecting filmgoers, Devdas-meets-Fear-and-Loathing style, in helium-filled balloons. Yes, there is a happy ending as well.

Kabir Rajdhir Singh (Shahid Kapoor) plays an entitled, insouciant, world-be-damned angry young man. He falls in love at first sight with a junior, Preeti Sikka (Kiara Advani), who arrives at his college, and spends the rest of his academic tenure marking his pheromonal territory around her.

Just when Kabir becomes a surgeon and Preeti graduates, and both are ready to “settle down”, her family forces her arranged marriage with someone else, sending Kabir spiralling into a world of alcohol, drugs, sex addiction, estrangement from family, and generally destructive behaviour that diminish his surgical genius. How he charts his course of redemption (boy, are we original or what) forms the rest of the story.

Shahid Kapoor, for all his lean sinew and dialogue delivery, will forever and only remain a weak-jawed, droopy-shouldered wannabe in Bollywood. I blame Udta Punjab for this digression in roles. Whatever happened to Aditya Kashyap from Jab We Met? Someone please teach him the difference between acting and hysterics. Kiara Advani is the doe-eyed damsel whose lips quiver at the drop of a hat. She doesn't have much to do but play a young woman with zero agency. No amount of frat boy camaraderie with his sidekicks can keep Kabir Singh from being an utterly unnecessary character and an utterly unnecessary film. And what is with the breathy, vocal fry, ululating hooey that passes for music these days?

This entirely vile excuse for a film, the likes of which should never have seen the light of day, should have been tossed in a garbage bin while still in script form. One question to ask after seeing this movie about a sociopath who is overly glorified, though: how much of this kind of toxic behaviour does society enable? What were the parents doing when this Kabir Singh boy was growing up and needed anger management classes? Why are his so-called friends constantly enabling this self-destructive man-child’s appalling behaviour? Two tight slaps at the first instance of backtalk would have spared us all the agony of having to see this character take form.

The only half star Kabir Singh gets is for the scene that hopefully will emancipate women from having to go through, for want of a better euphemism, painful personal grooming procedures. And the only redemptive factor in this degenerate bad boy story is that this movie will be remembered as a three-hour long reminder that smoking is injurious to health.

Pity we aren’t yet there where the censor board can slap a statutory warning on tripe such as these.

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