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Movie Review: 'Kedarnath' Is So Mediocre, It Neither Entertains Nor Offends

THE WIRE 2018-12-07 09:56:45

It takes 10 quick minutes to figure out the story of Abhishek Kapoor’s Kedarnath. Even if you haven’t seen the trailer. Even if you don’t know anything about the film. Starring Sushant Singh Rajput and debutant Sara Ali Khan, Kedarnath begins by paying tribute to the victims of the “Uttarakhand floods in June 2013”.

The film opens in May 2013. The hero, Mansoor (Rajput), is poor, a porter; he’s also a Muslim. The heroine, Mukku (Khan), is wealthy and a Hindu; her father is a pandit. Her fiancé, Kullu (Nitesh Dahiya), is a greedy businessman who wants to suffocate the town with tourists (and lodges). He’s also condescending towards Mansoor because he’s a Muslim. Kullu likes Mukku; Mukku likes Mansoor. You know how this will end.

Which is fine. An old, predictable story can be a good story, too. But Kapoor and Kanika Dhillon, the movie’s screenwriters, invest little effort in overcoming that hurdle. Mansoor and Mukku frequently meet, but they hardly bond. We get one small scene of them watching a cricket match together and, later, sharing a cup of chai, but other than that you never get why these two are drawn to each other.

The lack of attention to detail doesn’t help either. For someone who has recently joined Facebook, and is disconnected from the internet lingo, Mukku uses “tacky” and “senti” often. Kedarnath sees itself as an epic romantic drama – its poster reads “love is a pilgrimage” – but it lacks the basic quality of a simple rom-com: the chemistry between the leads.

Rajput should shoulder a major share of that blame. His role often requires him to be sheepish, but his shifting gaze and stifled smile – a standard non-expression – render a potentially complex part generic. If he tried aping Ranveer Singh in Raabta (2017), then here he’s after Shahrukh Khan. (He even extends his arms at a crucial point in the movie.) But Rajput is close to neither, and his borrowed style has been a disappointment. Especially because he held our attention in his debut, the quietly lyrical Kai Po Che (2013). His subsequent choices were off-kilter and borne out of considered thought – Shudh Desi Romance (2013) and Detective Byomkesh Bakshy (2015) – but since then he’s devolved into a wannabe Bollywood star struggling hard to find his stage.

Kapoor’s descent mirror Rajput’s. He made a comeback with Rock On!! (2008), then directed Kai Po Che, which then failed to find worthy successors. His next, Fitoor (2016), and latest, Kedarnath, signal a quick, unmistakable downfall. Kapoor films Kedarnath with such evident disinterest that you (almost) feel bad for him. Nothing about the scenes interest or intrigue you – not the writing, not the cinematography, not the production design, not the acting nor the songs nor the motifs.

What stands out is the over-reliance on computer-generation to make the frames either pretty or horrid. Early on, we have computer-generated lakes, rains and even a rat, all done without finesse, making the film artificial and dramatically inert. But the real computer-generation-fest is the film’s climax, where nearly anything of importance – walls crumbling, ground collapsing, river overflowing – looks designed on a computer. The film deals with a real tragedy, but instead of feeling the weight of loss, all we see on screen are pixels.

A refreshing respite is Khan who infuses some energy in a listless movie – although even she, like her co-star, struggles in the melodramatic scenes. Dahiya, saddled with an unimaginative part, nevertheless enjoys his role of a petty baddie.

Kedarnath’s mediocrity is quite unique: it doesn’t entertain; it doesn’t offend. It just exists – without joy or reason. Love may well be a pilgrimage, but Kedarnath takes you on an arduous trek to a shrine when you knew that you were an atheist all along.