A flawed character comes with its own set of complexities. How do you bring it on screen? Do you glorify him? Do you make him a hero? Do you establish a backstory to justify it all? Do you let it be there for audiences to judge? Do you bring it to a convenient culmination?
This could well have been the predicament for director Sandeep Vanga who was replicating the success of his Telugu film Arjun Reddy with Kabir Singh while roping in Shahid Kapoor to play the central protagonist. After all, the actor was entrusted to play a college student who is hot headed, has anger management issues, considers his girlfriend Kiara Advani as his ‘bandi’ (like a ‘jaageer’), pretty much seduces her into the relationship, moves on with further physical relationships with other women when things turn awry, is perpetually drunk even when he is performing surgeries, screams over his loved ones (father Suresh Oberoi and brother Arjan Bajwa), treats his best friend (Soham Majumdar) as the sounding board and a loud speaker no less and for the longest period of time kills himself with substance abuse.
For a character like this, it may seem like a near impossible task to actually root for him. However this is where the win of Sandeep Vanga and Shahid Kapoor lies! They make the film with so much conviction that you can’t help but actually fall in love with what translates on screen. There is one thing about falling for a character and another to actually fall with his or her flaws.
This is what makes Kabir Singh special as it’s the inherent flaws in the two characters that brings them closer. Shahid is as flawed as it gets due to aforementioned factors. On the other hand Kiara too is projected as this under confident never-been-in-a-relationship girl whose quietness borderlines on being meek and indecisive.
It is the coming together of the duo that makes Kabir Singh special, especially when the girl asks him coyly – ‘What do you like about me?’, and his response is plain and simple, ‘I like the way you breathe’! The metaphor is straight forward – ‘You breathe, which means you are alive. And when you are alive, you do things, and due to that I love everything that you do’!
Moments like these make the film special as you are invested in the love story of the duo. You want them to be together, you root for them, especially when you see the character of Shahid Kapoor been totally convinced about the fact that one day he and Kiara would be together. So much so that even after a crucial turn of events, he doesn’t lose hope and says simply, ‘She and I both know that we are happiest with each other. So where is the problem?’.
Well, the problem is not in the character but a bit in the film’s narrative where the effect of the love story is diluted to some extent by the self-destruction sequences in the second half that go beyond their shelf life. You fall in love with the love story but aren’t really bought in much when story takes a turn towards the whole self-destruction direction. Thankfully, it’s the music (both songs as well as the background score) that keep the excitement going for the audience despite the film running close to three hours.
That said, the film wouldn’t have been what it turns out to be if not for Shahid, Kiara and even Soham. By all means, Shahid comes up with his career best act. He is so good in playing this edgy character and believable too. Kiara is required to underplay her part and she does well too in a controlled setting. As for Soham, he shows how to play a supporting character role in an endearing way instead of becoming a caricature like it was in case of Sunil Grover in Bharat.
Endearing – this is how Kabir Singh turns out as an overall experience too. It has its flaws and that too predominantly due to the central character in the thick of things. However this is what makes it real as well, due to which the film manages to stand apart from the crowd.