Movie Review: Shahid’s Kabir Singh is a sickeningly regressive film

Some films pride themselves in breaking the glass ceiling: the rest are content with merely breaking glasses. Kabir Singh, played by Shahid Kapoor, is a monster in the garb of a surgeon: a man so consumed by otherworldly rage (and an inordinate fetish for all things alcoholic) that even a broken piece of cutlery is enough to drive him to disproportionate amounts of retribution. The perpetrator of this most heinous crime happens to be a maid servant, one who had gotten just a little too butterfingered for her own good – and so the poor old woman finds herself being chased across the entire length of an apartment by a man visibly off his rocker. That, however, doesn’t deter a lovelorn Kabir from later smashing his own glasses to the ground: his is a playbook that was written to serve the existential needs of a hypocrite.

Not for the first time in his career, Shahid Kapoor plays a kamina. A 27 year-old man-child who spends a significant chunk of his time unbuttoning himself, Kabir doesn’t hesitate to stuff a fistful of ice into his crotch in full public view, headbutt a referee in the middle of a football match, carry out entire surgeries in the midst of a drunken stupor, or inject himself with that which must not be injected. That doesn’t take away from his excellent (!) academic credentials though. “Topper of the college. Topper of the board. Topper of the university,” is how Adil Hussain’s character chooses to describe him, though Kapoor looks more like a jaded, post-retirement Wolverine than someone who could potentially be capable of cracking a medical entrance examination. The actor, to his credit, remains consistently watchable, even though he’s essentially been restricted to playing a narcissistic, self-destructive lout for three mind-numbing hours. As job descriptions go, it’s Eat, Sleep, Crave, Repeat.

The women in this film are defined by their chastity. In one scene, an entire group of female students walks past Kabir with a meekness, a docility so all-encompassing that they don’t even dare to lift their heads up and meet his gaze. “You know these healthy chicks? They are like teddy bears,” this pathetic excuse for a human being tells Kiara Advani’s character by way of “courtship”: this when he’s not rattling off numbers like 549 and 550 to her, as if suddenly attempting to recollect what the strength of the Lok Sabha actually is.

The writing is uniformly ghastly. This is a film where canines are named after women; a film where females are not allowed to wear lipstick inside an operation theatre (because, as Kabir points out in an inspired bout of reasoning, in cricket it’s the entire ground that’s cleaned out before the start of a match, and not just the pitch); a film where nurses light cigarettes for their superiors as part of an unwritten code of conduct; a film where a male doctor stands in the doorway of a classroom full of students, points to a particularly petite girl and says, “Sahi hai. Bahut achi hai yaar”; a film where a woman is asked to go and play antakshari moments after she has just been smooched against her will; a film where a girl reminds her paramour of his preeminence in her life and gets slapped across her cheek in return; a film where a doctor’s gaze traverses the length of an injured actress’ leg, only to get a look of complete infatuation in response; a film where an aged gentleman is threatened with the possibility of a flower-pot being smashed to bits upon his head (it’s funny, you see). “Angrezi mein ek kahaavat hai,” Kabir’s dad advises him at one point. “It’s not the goodbyes that hurt – it’s the flashbacks that follow.” Roger that: this is the kind of blissfully corny enterprise that will leave an entire crew shaking their heads in retrospect for having willingly assaulted their own respective filmographies.

Kabir is often inclined to recommend a tetanus shot to some of those unfortunate enough to come under his scalpel. I’m no surgeon myself, but I would suggest a healthy dosage of anaesthesia to anyone who deems himself masochistic enough to endure this sickeningly regressive film. The past remains a beacon for the rest of us. Sarat Chandra Chatterjee, Bimal Roy, Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Anurag Kashyap – a quartet of luminaries illustrious enough to merit being invoked in the same breath as each other – gave us Devdas, that most immortal of doomed lovers: a man who made us bleed with each twirl of that devastatingly downward spiral. Sandeep Vanga, on the other hand, has given us a bewda.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5

Shreehari H. is a lover of films and an even greater lover of writing.

Movie ReviewShahid Kapoor