'Kedarnath' review: Insipid mélange of launch vehicle

Film 'Kedarnath'.

Rating: 2/5

Starring: Sara Ali Khan, Sushant Singh Rajput, Nitish Bharadwaj, Pooja Gor

If you have not been living under a rock these last couple of weeks, chances are you will have seen some reference to the newest kid on the block, Sara Ali Khan, daughter of yesteryear actress Amrita Singh and junior Nawab of Pataudi, Saif Ali Khan. And the timing of the release couldn’t have been better considered, given that this is an interfaith love story and it releases during the week of the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992, an event that rent the social fabric of our country. Recently, Kedarnath was banned in seven different districts in Uttarakhand on the account that it promotes “love jihad”.

 

Coming from the industry that has turned love-story-as-a-launch-vehicle-for-star-kids into a formula that repeats every few years, this was a no-brainer. Boy meets girl, and sounds-like-it happens. Will their love triumph forces of evil and man and fate and nature? Conflicts in these movies are unimaginative as we all know. Montague and Capulet come to blows, or a shrew who is usually a feisty, shrill heroine with a face the camera loves needs taming (I’d like to see some diversity in this approach, please. For one, why only women?), or Antony cannot bring himself to leave Cleopatra behind for nobler pursuits because love is his noblest pursuit. Meet all three in this confused miasma of a launch pad. 

The plot is wafer-thin, the kind of dimension that the doctor prescribes you eat your cucumbers in, not potatoes. And that weak. Mandakini aka Mukku, daughter of a Hindu pandit (Sara Ali Khan) meets Mansoor Khan, Muslim porter who plies Hindu pilgrims to the Shiva shrine on his back (Sushant Singh Rajput), and pheromonal territories are marked. Families are against the young lovers, and before you know it, there’s a cloud burst in Uttarakhand, and lives and loves are torn asunder. But somehow, in those moments prior to the floods, the heaven-dweller (or in this case, the Himalayan dweller) looks kindly upon love, and so should we, and so all the colours of God’s green earth come to life in the exquisite landscape of Uttarakhand’s lush locales and the heroine’s designer salwars. Despite the stellar cinematography, graphics that veer straight into serpentine, precocious territory, (I saw one wave slithering from a mile away in my head), and Sara Ali Khan’s like-mother-like-daughter pluck (she is a camera’s delight), the movie seems to drag on with nothing concrete to say about anything at all. 

There are several points that are stitched into this patchwork fabric of a screenplay: forbidden love, social commentary, man’s spirit, kumbaya, the scale of devastation of the Uttarakhand floods in 2013, humanity, the power of romance, the strangest sense of supplication to a higher power, a soundtrack that barely registers, a Bollywood dance number (but of course), what have you. The primary problem here being that none of these cohere into a single whole that you can take with you as you could Betaab, or even Yeh Dillagi, for that matter. 

In bits and pieces, the movie can be charming. The buildup of the romance is typical Bollywood -- veering straight into, for want of a better word, filmi tropes. The panoramic views of the majestic mountain ranges, the gushing confluence of the rivers, almost hymnal verdant locales, some witty banter between the leads, offer welcome respite from an otherwise tedious movie-watching experience. Sara Ali Khan makes a confident debut, and I hope she isn’t typecast as the rat-a-tat-a-tat motormouth in her next movie. Sushant Singh Rajput may be one of the most earnest actors in Bollywood today, but he is adequate at best here. Nitish Bharadwaj of “Krishna” fame descends into an earthly mortal avatar here as Mandakini’s father. Others merely serve as peripheral context or collateral damage.

And just like that, I forgot why the movie Kedarnath exists. It wants to be a people pleaser so bad that it dishonours the two most important components that go into making a good story: believable characters, and a strong plot. Love’s laborious loss. 

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'Kedarnath' review: Insipid mélange of launch vehicle

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