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Kabir Singh Review: Shahid Kapoor’s performance in and as the toxic lover, Kabir Singh, aces all else

The ‘intense’ love story Kabir Singh featuring Shahid Kapoor and Kiara Advani is a veritable kiss-a-thon!

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Star Rating: 

Kabir Singh is director Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s remade Hindi version of his own Telugu hit film Arjun Reddy (released in 2017). The Telugu version starred Vijay Deverakonda and Shalini Pandey in the lead roles, whilst the Hindi version features Shahid Kapoor as the titular character, paired with Kiara Advani as his romantic lead. Ironically, neither of the two were Vanga’s first choices (but both have done ample justice to their roles). The film is called a romantic drama, but earned an ‘Adults Only’ certificate at the Censor Board. The film is jointly produced by Cine1 Studios and T-Series. Despite a lot of back-and-forth on who would play the two leads, once Shahid was locked, the film was wrapped up in a record eight months, and released today (June 21). The heart-thumping soundtrack is by Mithoon, Amaal Malik, Akhil Sachdeva, Vishal Mishra and Sachet Parampara.

What Kabir Singh is all about:

It is the ‘intense’ love story between two medical students Kabir Rajdheer Singh (Shahid Kapoor) and Preeti Sikka (Kiara Advani), whose love doesn’t come to fruition in marriage. It unhinges the already toxic-charactered hero, now a surgeon, who becomes an alcoholic and descends on a self-destructive path when his girl-friend’s parents oppose their union and marry her off to somebody else. His family and friends rally around him and despair of him alternately. But he is hell-bent on getting his love back or then it doesn’t matter what happens… Selfishly enough, to him or to the people who love him and suffer for him.

The aggressive Kabir Singh, an academic topper and senior is respected and feared by all in the college. More fear because he is a bully and any amount of trying to bathe him in glowing adjectives would be a lie. He imposes his love on the young and impressionable Preeti, a fresher, staking and claiming her as his territory by going class-to-class saying it. As students of anatomy, they spend every spare minute in exploring each other’s, and rarely pause between kisses, the chain that keeps their love-story literally bonded. And so they complete their education. He goes to her parents to ask for her hand. Actually demand it. They refuse, and there are fights galore, and the two lovers say a lot of bad stuff to each other and move on with their lives. One with alcohol, and the other, with a ‘so-called marriage’. The downslide of Kabir is rapid and devastating for those around him. How does this whole bizarre, toxic relationship really end?  Ah well, watch and learn what not to do in one.

Yay:

Shahid Kapoor is simply brilliant as the troubled and troubling Kabir Singh. He seems to have enjoyed the role at points and really suffered at times. Either way, his immersion into this flawed character was complete and flawless. A spoilt, rich brat who is best friends with his forward thinking grandmommy (played very well by Kamini Kaushal), at constant loggerheads with his dad, Suresh Oberoi, and doted on by his mature, yet indulgent brother Karan, played by Arjan Bajwa. Even though his was a brief role, Arjan lent a lot of credibility to his character, and layered it as best he could to showcase the depth of his nature.

Kabir’s friends, Shiva (Soham Majumdar – very well-performed) and Kamal (Kunal Thakur) stick by his side through thick and thin. Kiara was effective as the naïve, impressionable and sometimes wilful lover girl. Their chemistry is unmissable. You can cut it with a knife. As performances and storytelling go, it makes for compelling viewing. The dialogues by Siddharth Singh, Garima Wahal and Sandeep Vanga score in many places.

Nay: The kind of hero this character is, is basically someone who one would suggest, required psychiatric help. The acceptance of someone like this so casually and normally grates one’s core. Yes, lovers like these, exist aplenty in the South Indian film hero’s portrayals, possibly in that social milieu too. But it completely sends off dangerous wrong signals as to the very foundation of what relationships are built on. The thought that the character is based a lot on Sandeep Vanga Reddy is scary. Emotional aggression is not acceptable. Ever. And physical intimidation, even lesser. THIS IS SO NOT HOW TO WIN LOVE. In fact, going further, this does not classify as love at all. It is glorified lust, with no thought about emotional damage on either lover’s part for the other. Or how do they justify just upping and leaving the other suffering in the trail of negative action post their separation?

Aarif Sheikh’s editing left one wanting for serious respite. At just short of three hours, it seemed a tale of interminable proportions. And not a happy experience. The sound track is good, but heart-thumpingly loud right through, no subtlety. But that is something this film lacks at many levels. It is not a subtle love story.

No amount of disclaimers and warnings can work with the sheer quantity of alcohol and drugs and the ways and means to hide it in open sight that were executed in Kabir’s home. Moreover, an almost-always-drunk surgeon taking pride in a few hundred surgeries where his hands didn’t shake, sorry guys, the medical community needs waking up. Despite Shahid’s excellent performance, at no point in time does he evoke one’s sympathy whatsoever. He is a selfish, manic, unduly angry, badly behaved, horny bugger, his misdeeds protected by money. There is no poetic or philosophic side to this wrongly named Kabir.

Cine Blitz Verdict:

Whilst the film may do well in the South and in the North of India, metro cities’ urbane audiences might find it off- putting. For sure it’ll do business. You should watch it for Shahid Kapoor alone. And to learn what not to do and be in a love relationship.

 

Movie Reviews

Hostages 2 review: Felt like being held hostage

Disney + Hotstar’s Hostages season 2 is bigger and better than its first season; yet it is inconsistent and a bit too stretched

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Hostages season 2

Hostages Season 2

Director: Sachin Mamta Krishn

Cast: Ronit Bose Roy, Divya Dutta, Shweta Basu Prasad

Streaming on: Disney + Hotstar

Hostages (based on an Israeli show of the same name) season one had a unique premise and twists and turns; and ended on a cliffhanger. Hostages season 2 is much bigger and better. But it has the same problem of inconsistency as season 1. Sure, there are enough twists and turns to trigger your curiosity. But a sloppy screenplay stretches the drama too much. In the 12-episode long duration, there’s always a scope for re-editing. These days, crime dramas and thrillers have become more realistic (for the better), hence, you don’t have to bear the passive aggressive dialoguebaazi. The dialogue here though, except for a few gems, lacks impact.

Also read: Bandish Bandits review: A melodious treat

The twists are astonishing, no doubt. But the sloppy execution takes the adrenaline out of it. If you have been binge watching crime dramas and thrillers (there’s a plethora on OTT) you can expect what could happen next. The usual camera and editing techniques used to create suspense and tension aren’t handled effectively. Every episode has a new revelation but a cumulative duration of about six hours becomes a little too long a wait to see the end.

Hostages 2 has an ensemble cast and some good performances. Ronit Bose Roy as SP Prithvi Singh leads the pack alongside Divya Dutta’s clever Ayesha Khan and Shweta Basu Prasad’s fiery Shikha Pandey. An always dependable Amit Sial does full justice to his role of a confused, agitated nurse/compounder Peter. It was good to see veteran Kanwaljit Singh as the head of the police department. Dino Morea and Shibani Dandekar have extended cameos. Their scenes together have nothing else to offer than yawns.

Also read: Masaba Masaba review: Funny and breezy mother-daughter story

There are all the mandatory characters of a crime drama/thriller. There are quarrelling intelligence officers, angry cop versus sensible cop, a confused in distress, a loyal, emotional fool who would create panic and a manipulator. The seasoned actors mentioned above and a few new (relatively) faces put on performances, but they seem staged and individualistic rather than unified and organic. The director Sachin Mamta Krishn is only executing what’s written on paper. His direction never really appears to be aspiring or controlled.

The twists are plotted in every episode with the intention of keeping you hooked. But not knowing enough till almost the eighth (of total twelve) episode tests your patience. Felt like being held hostage to watch this one.

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Movie Reviews

Bandish Bandits review: A melodious treat

Amazon Prime Video’s latest original Bandish Bandits directed by Anand Tiwari stars Naseeruddin Shah, Shreya Chaudhry and Ritwik Bhowmik

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Bandish Bandits

Bandish Bandits

Creators: Amritpal Singh Bindra, Anand Tiwari

Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Shreya Chaudhry, Ritwik Bhowmik

Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video

Amazon Prime Video have been upping their game in Indian original series as compared to their leading counterparts Netflix, Disney+ Hotstar, and Zee5. They have produced some of the finest and loved series in last couple of years; Inside Edge, Mirzapur, The Family Man, Made In Heaven, Panchayat, and Paatal Lok to name a few. Their latest offering Bandish Bandits that dropped in August is a much needed break from the crime dramas/thrillers that fill up most OTT platforms these days.

Bandish Bandits is created by Amritpal Singh Bindra and Anand Tiwari who were one of the first creators in the Indian OTT scene. Their latest product Bandish Bandits tells a story of a singing prodigy Radhe Rathod (Ritwik Bhowmik) from classical gharana and a pop sensation Tamanna Sharma (Shreya Chaudhry). Radhe’s world turns upside down when he falls in love with Tamanna. He’s caught between supporting his love and staying true to his own music and his family’s legacy.

Also read: Class of 83 review: Interesting but lacks adrenaline

The lead couple (Ritwik & Shreya) here is affable and their chemistry feels natural. The contrast between their personalities brings out a fresh on-screen romance. Shreya has a natural spunk and Ritwik doesn’t seem to be just lip-syncing to the songs during his riyaz and singing sequences. The last I remember someone doing it better rather best (that I have seen) was Ranbir Kapoor in Rockstar.

Naseeruddin Shah plays Panditji, an aging musical maestro of Jodhpur and Radhe’s grandfather. It’s a delight to see this acting maestro play a singing maestro, keeping secrets of his own behind his legacy. These three are ably supported by Rahul Kumar, Sheeba Chaddha, Rajesh Tailang, Amit Mistry, and Atul Kulkarni. Kunal Roy Kapur plays his usual funny self. Some kickass dialogue helps him not become monotonous. All the characters here have layers. That’s the beauty of long format storytelling. You wouldn’t see the nuances and problems of supporting characters in a feature length film.

Also read: Masaba Masaba review: Funny and breezy mother-daughter story

A musical such as Bandish Bandits needs the grandeur and heritage Jodhpur provides it perfectly. Swapnali Das’ production design and Sriram Ganapathy’s cinematography give the series a vibrant, colorful and soothing look and feel. Shankar Ehsaan Loy’s music is soulful. The singing and riyaz sequences in the series are its best assets (a must for a musical). Long format allows you to be indulgent and creators here make full use of that. The writers Bindra, Tiwari, Lara Chandni, and Adhir Bhat give each character their space, voice and time.

At 10 episodes with an average duration of 40 minutes, Bandish Bandits may seem to be a stretch in some episodes. My favorite episode was the second one titled Shuddhikaran which chronicles the penance of Radhe to be eligible for Ganda Bandhan (threading ceremony). I divided my viewing of this series in couple of days. Turned out to be a melodious treat.

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Movie Reviews

Masaba Masaba review: Funny and breezy mother-daughter story

It is refreshing to see a series about two strong, independent and successful women without preaching feminism gyan.

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Neena Gupta and Masaba Gupta

Masaba Masaba

Director: Sonam Nair

Cast: Masaba Gupta, Neena Gupta

Streaming on: Netflix

I wonder how comfortable or uncomfortable would it be to play yourself (or a version of you) on screen? Netflix’s new original Masaba Masaba features renowned fashion designer Masaba Gupta and her mother actress Neena Gupta playing themselves (or a version of them). Masaba who turns actor with this series seems perfectly at ease in front of the camera. Her mother Neena who has become a go-to actress to play mom post Badhaai Ho, is the show-stealer. Whenever these two women are on screen, you simply can’t take your eyes off them.

The series is semi-autobiographical. It’s difficult to distinguish between facts and fiction. The treatment is bold and funny. It is refreshing to see a series about two strong, independent and successful women without preaching feminism gyan. Masaba is a character/person which is hardly ever seen in Indian content. The similarity flashbacks of adult Masaba and child Masaba are some of the nicest sequences.

Also read: Class of 83 review: Interesting but lacks adrenaline

The series has delightful cameos by some lovely women – Kiara Advani, Pooja Bedi, Shibani Dandekar, Malavika Mohanan and Farah Khan (my favorite cameo). Creator Ashvini Yardi, director Sonam Nair and her team of writers (Punya Arora, Nandini Gupta, Anupama Ramchandran) have created a funny and breezy, six-episode tale of a fabulous mother-daughter duo. The dialogue is top rated and the screenplay is crisp.

The series is set in the millennial & colorful world of fashion and production design brings this aspect out excellently. I assume some of the portions must have been shot at their real home and office. The use of Instagram in the narrative is done smartly. In a world of showing off on social media how cool your life is an addiction (sickness?), many people use it as a self-defense mechanism also.

Also read: Shakuntala Devi review: A delightful film; Vidya kasam!

However, sometimes, the semi-autobiographical story seems to saunter around on the surface level. It doesn’t really dig deep into the psyche of the characters where the real problems lie. Things are passed on as mere information that you need to get and move on with the narrative. No time to know these two women more for Neena has often shared her issues of being forgotten/sidelined by casting directors or filmmakers, the challenges of being a single parent etc. These things haven’t been given much attention.

The series has its flaws, but life too has them. But it seems to be an attempt to embrace those flaws and celebrate the mess as you navigate through it. Worth checking this one out.

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