This week’s release, Kedarnath, brings an interesting collaboration between two contrasting film personalities – director Abhishek Kapoor and writer Kanika Dhillon. I say contrasting because if you have followed Kanika Dhillon’s work, she gives a distinct voice to the female protagonist and requires abled filmmakers to bring that out beautifully. Abhishek Kapoor, though extremely ambitious in his scale and execution, slightly falters in building his characters emotionally. And both these traits are visible in Sara Ali Khan and Sushant Singh Rajput starrer, Kedarnath. Unfortunately, it is not a great blend.
The story was predictable from the trailer itself – an inter-faith love story set against the backdrop of the devastating Uttarakhand floods of 2013. Mandakini ‘Mukku’ (Sara Ali Khan) is a feisty, confident and a frank girl, born to a Pandit’s family in Kedarnath. Belonging to a well-to-do family that runs lodges in Kedarnath, she is an outlier. She cusses, picks up petty fights, has a sharp tongue that does not even spare her opportunistic father and openly woos the guy she likes. As one would expect, she falls for a Muslim Pitthoo (the ones who carry pilgrims on their back), Mansoor Khan (Sushant Singh Rajput). The love blooms in the backdrop of a picturesque Kedarnath, till the deluge hits them and wipes the city off.
As I mentioned, the story has a distinctive Kanika Dhillon stamp. Her stories always revolve around the female protagonists and includes a third wheel. Third wheels like Simran (Sonal Chauhan) in Size Zero, Vicky (Vikky Kaushal) in Manmarziyaan have had strong roles in her stories. Interestingly, while we do have a romantic antagonist in Kedarnath, I felt Brinda (Pooja Gor), who plays Mukku’s elder sister was the third wheel in this case. The writer deserves another brownie point for creating a sub-track on the friction between the two sisters, which adds to the main love story. Also, like Sweety (Anushka Shetty) in Size Zero and Rumi (Taapsee Pannu) in Manmarziyaan, Mukku is a girl who lives on her own terms. It was refreshing to see a female lead eyeing the male protagonist and wooing him. It could have looked awkward, given the rural setting, but the dialogues (also by Kanika Dhillon) give us some endearing moments. The progression of their love story, while taking Pitthoo rides from Kedarnath to Rambada have been developed well. Making her debut, after repeated delays, Sara Ali Khan appears confident and makes a promising start. Dressed in best of the clothes, which seem out of place given where the movie is set, Sara looks comfortable in the character and delivers a variety of emotions, though she needs to work on her romantic lines. It is a well written role for an actor to make her debut with.
Complementing her well, Sushant Singh Rajput, delivers a strong performance. His shy demeanor and hushed smiles in reply to a flirting Mukku, are a delight to watch. There are a few sequences where the religion of Mansoor and their communal difference are touched upon, but these never come out convincingly. Director Abhishek Kapoor’s 2013-hit, Kai Po Che, set against a communally fragile Gujarat riots had a better weaving of the story of three friends in a communally disturbed environment. Here, it seems rather forced because during the development of the love track between Mukku and Mansoor, their different faiths never really comes out. Again, this is the fallacy of Abhishek Kapoor, where he assumes the audiences are emotionally connected and hence keeps certain things unsaid. And this is how the movie starts to crumble in the second half, where suddenly a love story is meddled with religion at first and then an overdrawn sequence of the Kedarnath floods. The tonality of the movie changed completely in the last 10 minutes, when it seemed more like a documentary on Kedarnath floods and not a love story that it began as. Not to mention, the graphics and VFX used for creating the flood scenes looked very mediocre. Giving credit where it is due, the music by Amit Trivedi and Cinematography by Tushar Ray are beautiful and bring Kedarnath alive. I almost packed by bags to visit this picturesque place!
Kedarnath had way too much cramped in a run time of 2 hours– a beautiful love story, inter-religion troubles, the rampant urbanization and the devastating deluge! If not for the strong performances by the leads, despite the deluge in the end, the movie may leave you high and dry.
My Rating – 3/5 (0.5 just for Sara and Sushant)