Kedarnath is a tragic love story with a background of a massive human tragedy – the Uttarakhand floods in 2013 – that devastated the region.
The movie begins with a Muslim porter, Mansoor Khan (Sushant Singh Rajput), transporting the pilgrims, residents of Uttarakhand on his horse or back, up and down the steep mountain of the holy town. His ultimate aim is to make sure every pilgrim has a memorable visit.
Mandakini (Sara Ali Khan) is a daughter of a Hindu priest and belongs to an influential family in the region. They literally own the place, as we are told, and Mandakini behaves like she truly does. She’s feisty, rebel without a cause, Facebook addict, has a mind of her own, wants to have a perfect love story going – basically the quintessential new-age Bollywood actress we see in films these days.
The differences between their faiths is established in the first few scenes, where a Hindu grandma has her reservations about taking the hike up with the help of a Muslim porter.
The camera loves Sara Ali Khan and she’s breathtaking in her debut. Director Abhishek Kapoor spends a good part of the first half capturing her beauty and manages to get her to deliver an array of emotions. She’s confident, makes her presence felt and is instantly likeable although she does miss the rawness needed for the role in a few scenes.
The filmmaker tries hard to make us believe in a love story that isn’t really organic. We are forced to fall in love with a couple whose love story is established in one really long song, mouth cheesy dialogues, romance in the rain and want to be together defying all odds. Add to that, a scene with the mother threatening to set herself on fire with kerosene and we have the 90s Bollywood masala film with a millennial star cast. Also, slapping each other at the slightest provocation is an integral part of the script. There were at least seven, at my last count.
A promising actor like Sushant Singh Rajput exists in the background with two monologues to shine. He brings in the token heroism, machoism towards the climax, required in a human tragedy film but doesn’t leave a lasting impression.
While the director should be given the credit for making a film about Kedarnath floods, he is also guilty of cramming in too many things in a 2-hour, 25 minute film.
By the second half, you don’t know where to invest your emotions – should it be the inter-faith couple, the commercialisation plan of Kedarnath at the cost of its ecological imbalance or the massive human tragedy of floods.
The trailer gave the impression that the film revolves around the floods but the crisis makes an entry only in the last 10-15 minutes. In the rest of the film, we are forced to empathise with the couple. Writer Kanika Dhillon joins Abhishek Kapoor as the co-writer but fails to create the magic of Manmarziyaan.
A little more focus on the tragedy could have left an impression on the viewers. The visuals of the massive tsunami engulfing the holy city, the crumbling buildings, the dark clouds, rain bursts, people getting carried away by the force of water look hard hitting. You can’t escape but feel helpless, vulnerable at the hands of mother earth’s fury. So, why not focus more on it?
Kedarnath fails short of stirring up emotions the way it intends. It ends up being an empty, unmoving watch.
Cast: Sushant Singh Rajput, Sara Ali Khan
Director: Abhishek Kapoor