By Shreehari H
The Bard of Bandra might have his own long queue of headphone-flaunting devotees, but even he canít help but be an acolyte. Amit Trivedi could well be hailed as the Supreme Deity of contemporary Bollywood music, if post-millenial Hindi film compositions are anything to go by, and he kicks off Abhishek Kapoorís Kedarnath in spectacular fashion with a lovely little devotional ditty, Namo Namo.
Sushant Singh Rajput plays Mansoor Khan, a simpleton with a heart of gold, and over the course of this song, we see him ferry pilgrims about in a wickerwork basket tied to his backóthis while he regales his customers with anecdotes about life at the temple town. In a terrific long aerial shot, we see thousands of devotees brave the long circuitous path that leads up to the shrine, even as hawkers and tantriks peddle their wares in front of hastily drawn murals. Itís a rather eclectic bunch of people, indeed, and one thatís bound together by that most universal of unifiers: faith.
Comparisons with Titanic are but inevitable, and there are indeed a few similarities between the two films, intentional or otherwise. Like James Cameronís magnum opus, Kedarnath is essentially a tale of two star-crossed lovers battling the rigidity of social hierarchy against the backdrop of a tumultuous disaster. One tragedy was the result of hubris, the other the outcome of a cloudburst, and yet both incidents serve as cautionary tales, transcendental in both scope and timelessness. Mansoor is a boy from a less-privileged background who dares to court a maiden that should, by decree of both birth and bluster, be out of bounds to him, and he even has his Jack Dawson moment in the end (for those of us who recall that infamous floating door from the 1997 blockbuster, this shouldnít really come as a surprise).
That a film should hew this close to Cameronís masterpiece is not necessarily a bad thing in itself, and writer Kanika Dhillon keeps the proceedings taut enough, save for an occasionally contrived dialogue here and there (ĎNahi hoga yeh sangam!í ĎAbhi toh tamasha shuru hua hai!í), and a bewilderingly silly song (titled Sweetheart, as if to underline its outlandishness) that feels totally out of place. Itís not the kind of creative decision that Kapoor would willingly partake in, I suspect, judging by the aesthetic displayed by him in his previous films, and I canít help but feel it was included as an afterthought for the sole purpose of proving that its debutant leading lady can break into a jig as well.
Sushant Singh Rajput is as winsome as ever, portraying a character so endearingly goofy that itís hard not to be won over at the very outset. Sara Ali Khan is sincere and has great screen presence (though she does occasionally let her inexperience shine through), and when the two of them finally get around to the couply parts Ė all cuddles and canoodling Ė it feels all the more gut-wrenching. A moment where a drenched Mansoor breaks into Lata Mangeshkarís Lag Jaa Gale from Woh Kaun Thi is absolutely sublime, and even though this is a highly linear affair Ė one where you can predict every plot point beat for beat – you remain thoroughly invested because of the leading pair, and because of Tushar Kanti Rayís exceptional camerawork.
A word, then, about the climax. The Chorabari lake is one that many of us got acquainted with for the first time when we saw visuals of 2013ís most heart-rending tragedy play out on our television screens, and Abhishek Kapoor does full justice to the poignancy of the situation. People scurry for cover, ramshackle shops crumble and horses whinny in panic even as electric poles get uprooted, temples get submerged, bells chime ominously and many a lovingly designed home caves in to the unrelenting waters below. Itís almost as if the entire town had been constructed with the structural integrity of plasticine, and this is a sequence so spine-chillingly effective that it has to rank among the yearís very best. Kapoorís films come from a place of great emotional purity, and ever since his terrific 2008 musical drama, Rock On, he has managed to retain a certain wide-eyed innocence in his tales Ė that of a kid discovering licorice candy for the first time. Now thatís Magik for you.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Shreehari H. is a lover of films and an even greater lover of writing.
Stay updated with all the insights.
Navigate news, 1 email day.
Subscribe to Qrius