“‘Thugs..’ this ‘2.0’ that, ‘Kedarnath’ is actually the Hindi event film this year”
-Abhishek Kapoor’s own version of ‘Titanic’ is a welcome romance drama with a hypnotic impact.
Abhishek Kapoor, the director of ‘Kedarnath’, has managed to build a stamp of his own in Hindi Cinema. In films like “Rock On!” or “Kai Po Che!”, he has managed to deliver these small, noteworthy dramas that have the angst of a Yash Chopra film and the accessibility of a more modern, realistic Hindi film. He disappears from the Bollywood landscape for some years, and then comes with a film that won’t be a bookmark for Indian Cinema but will stand the test of time on their own due to Abishek’s faith in his Cinema.
It is no surprise then, that with ‘Kedarnath’, he has set out to make his own version of James Cameron’s film ‘Titanic’ and has succeeded in delivering something close to the legendary Hollywood film in its onscreen impact. That is down to his ability to set-up tenderly and carefully, a part of which is the smart usage of VFX in this film.
You could take almost all characters and plot points in ‘Kedarnath’ and correlate them with ‘Titanic’- both titles also take their names from the sites of a severe disaster. There’s the vile fiance in ‘Kullu’ (Nishant Dahiya), who was first engaged to Mukku’s (Sara Ali Khan as the Rose here) sister Brinda, but then decided to switch between the sisters as they grew up. There’s the heroine’s parent willing to give away his daughter to the vile man based on social calculations only in Mukku’s father ‘Panditji’.
Then there is Sushant Singh Rajput’s Mansoor- the Jack in the romantic couple, a quiet, devoted porter far from the hypocrisy and arrogance around Mukku. Abhishek Kapoor creates a world with good depth. In the “Jack and Rose” scenario, the social balance has to be distributed in their equation. Mansoor’s companion is a sombre, lonely mother who wants her son to keep away from any trouble. Mukku is the one more at the centre of the society that she must abandon. Pooja Gor as Brinda is an excellent image of that society- she’s the unfortunate sister, the one who must track the footsteps of her more adventurous younger sister; at one point, when Mukku slaps her, Brinda’s retort slap is largely the reassertion of an ‘elder sister’ in their dynamics.
Amit Trivedi’s characteristic soothing music is an important companion of the film- it is at once a piece off the wonderful texture of Kedarnath the place, and a part of the on-goings of the film. “Namo Namo” belongs to Mansoor’s devotion, and it opens the film. With ‘Qaafirana’, Mukku and Mansoor begin to break away into their romance. The song concludes with them in a cave, and it is in the cave where the lead performers and Abhishek’s film earn their rights.
The scene is the first incident of rain in a film that will obviously conclude with a flood. Here are two lovers in a cave with the rain raging in the dour weather outside. Mansoor lights a fire, and you realize this is after a very long time that we’re watching a quiet scene of lovers in a cave in a Hindi romance film. Sushant as Mansoor, with anticipation and wonder in his boyish face, is just suitable. But Sara has huge shoes to fill in; she is debuting as the stock female character in films today- that of the spirited young girl. From Sharmila Tagore to ‘Sairat’, everything hangs by her neck in this role. But when she speaks of the tales of rain and her dead auntie, she is far from another urban debutant in a mountain romance. She owns it in the way she takes the drops of rain in her mouth and approaches Mansoor/Sushant. He awaits to be kissed by her, but she spits at his face instead. His response is equally embarrassment and a romantic awakening, and it is as if the experienced Sushant is surprised at the debutant Sara’s abilities.
With the song “Jaan’ Nisaar”, things turn rough in the film. Mukku is known to be flirtatious with boys just so she can embarrass her conservative setting. Brinda tells Mansoor that he is just another in that list. It is the first disruption in their love, and with the earnest “Jaan Nisaar”, Mukku and Mansoor must realise and cement their rebellion- this set-up has a wonderful pay-off, in a film with many wonderful pay-offs, when Mukku sits by Mansoor’s house in the rain. This will be the final song in the film, the passion will grow between them and their surrounding will begin to realise and react with vehemance, all as the rain patters down with unusual heaviness outside their attention.
Abhishek builds up slow, careful and lets the tension simmer- almost the entire second half is a singular long sequence. He asks us to observe the premise- the lovers are converging, the society is dividing, but something’s coming up that will take it all away. He makes us invest in the smaller affairs, the steady growth of passion led by his performers, and takes this trust of ours to slowly build the hypnotic spectacle of his film. This trust was absent in ‘2.0’, which one critic described as a ‘WWF film’. When the cloud bursts over the Chorabari Lake, he shoots it from a distance, and colors the shot so gentle and dull, that the loud thud of a sea breaking in from the sky is like a monster waking in the dark. And just like that, in his new film, he has once more used a bigger premise and given it his composed, accessible treatment. The parallel with ‘Titanic’ is profound, because Bollywood is dreaming big these days. True to his nature, Abhishek has appeared cool at the landscape and made something that like him, doesn’t become a bookmark, but speaks from the margins- if you’re dreaming the big, you’ve got to look at the small.