Kabir Singh is an intense love story.
But it really focuses in on its main protagonist, the titular Kabir Singh. He is a flawed genius with anger-management issues (Shahid Kapoor), and his love interest is the innocent-looking Preeti Sikka (played by Kiara Advani). They meet in medical college, but their tale hurtles to a tragic end.
The plot is nothing new, as this is a straight Hindi remake of the 2017 Telugu movie Arjun Reddy, and both films are by director Sandeep Reddy Vanga.
In both versions, the protagonist is in almost every frame: Arjun Reddy gained actor Vijay Deverakonda the prestigious Filmfare award for best acting, and the film grossed more than 10 times its budget. And while the year is not even halfway done, Kapoor is definitely going to get a nomination thanks to his power-packed performance in Kabir Singh. It's one that clearly comes from the heart, as well as the lungs, and perhaps even the kidneys.
Madly in love and eventually jilted, Kapoor's surgeon has terrible drinking and smoking habits, but still manages to focus on his medical duties. In real life, Kapoor's religious beliefs means he doesn't smoke tobacco or drink alcohol, and so while coloured liquid was used in the drinking scenes, Kapoor confessed in a promotional interview that it was indeed trickier to fake being a chain smoker. The conviction in his acting may perhaps win over some critics.
For much of the movie, Kapoor impresses, but the script is frustratingly patchy in that it shows so much destruction in the character, but paints little empathy from his friends and family, who seemingly just allow him to go down a terrible path without helping.
Veteran actress Kamini Kausal, who plays Singh’s grandmother, gets a scene with one lame line where she says one option for depressed people is to let them suffer, meaning they will just eventually empty out the pain from their hearts. This, quite frankly, doesn't cut it in today's world where we should have more awareness of mental health.
The film is a journey of suffering, yes, but it doesn't establish the tension in the relationship between the love birds Kabir and Preeti well enough. The reasons why Preeti's parents are against them getting married aren't made clear enough (in Arjun Reddy, there was the premise of caste difference).
For Kabir Singh, the locale is Delhi, and yet in some of the script, Mumbai slang language creeps in. Also, while doing medical college, Kabir is introduced to fresher Preeti as a senior student but also by the dean as an "in-house surgeon."
The script deficiencies are hidden by an excellent score from music directors Amaan Mallik and Mithoon. Sachet Tandon's vocals in Bekhayali mean the song has become a raging hit in India, as well as among young fans here in the UAE (at least according to first-hand accounts I've heard).
Also impressive is the track Kaise Hua by composer-singer Vishal Mishra. Irhsad Kamil's lyrics in most of the songs are spot on, too.
The camera is obsessed with Kapoor in this film, but Soham Majumdar does well as his side-kick and friend Shiva, and Advani is strong in her role as the love interest, as well. Kapoor's last hit film that he led was Haider in 2014, putting aside Padmaavat that he co-starred in in in 2017.
And he certainly has shown his talent again as Kabir Singh, but unfortunately the film itself is not an all-round package. This means his long wait for the perfect hit, and the film we'll remember at the end of his career, still continues.
Barring the songs and Kapoor’s standout performance, there is not much at the heart of this film. As you watch, you think there might be a moment that drums in a social message, but that never comes. It remains, unfortunately, a one-time watch that sits firmly in the romance genre.