Let me get the few positives out of the way. Shahid Kapoor does everything he can with the script he was handed. There are a couple of scenes where his performance does seem gimmicky. But that’s more because of the awful writing which I’ll get into later. Shahid Kapoor is undoubtedly the saving grace of the film and probably the only reason why you shouldn’t stop watching it midway. I also think Kabir Singh (2019) is a well-produced and a well-shot film for the most part. The camera work is satisfying and was almost always well framed with the nature of the scene. With that out of the way, let’s discuss the core of the movie.
This movie is very distant from reality and even further away from what our society should aspire to be. This movie has no understanding of who women are and is an utter embarrassment at portraying them. The entire first half made me cringe my face away from the screen probably every 10 minutes. Kiara Advani’s Preeti Sikka has no personality or motivations whatsoever. She barely has any lines until they become a serious couple, giving their entire relationship no foundation. She almost submits to Kabir Singh’s advances without having any say at all. There is nothing in their relationship to be invested in unless you just enjoy seeing two pretty faces together on screen.
Kabir Singh feels like someone with a Bi-Polar disorder and who would probably be in desperate need of psychiatric help in the real world. Not someone who should treat others medically. The entire narrative and every character apart from him exist just to tolerate and humor his obnoxious tantrums. As a side note, his violence also never really feels threatening. In a scene where he repeatedly punches a pinned down man, the camera conveniently pans slightly above the would-be points of contact. For such a violent character, the movie never actually shows him landing a clean punch. This is repeated once again later. The action choreography and makeup work for his violent nature just never feel visceral. This seems pointless considering the movie is certified ‘A’ for its drug use, sex, and language.
But my biggest disappointment with the movie comes in the last half hour. After the interval, the plot genuinely had me hooked. Self-abusive toxic behavior and mental illness is something we should all be discussing more. Kabir Singh is more than his inability to deal with a breakup and he shows glimmers of hope as an excellent surgeon. He seems passionate about his career and takes responsibility for his actions when he screws up as a professional. I respected that and genuinely got excited when he started to rebuild his life after he hit rock bottom. But the story decides to throw all that character progression away with its immature ending.
The almost 180-minute journey of the movie is built on a massive plot convenience, wasting not just the audience’s time but Kabir Singh’s as well. This movie is full of such frustrating plot conveniences that just exist to create drama and want to glorify his behavior. The ending almost justifies his ways of life without any actual consequence being felt. This will undoubtedly leave young audiences (especially men) with the wrong message. This movie could maybe work as a cautionary tale for what not to do and be. But it is never portrayed in that sense, making his actions almost seem heroic. Movies like Kabir Singh can potentially hinder society from evolving and can certainly hinder Bollywood from evolving.
Kabir Singh (2019) glorifies self-abusive toxic male behavior along with its disgraceful portrayal of women and horribly wrong ideologies on romantic relationships. Shahid Kapoor’s satisfactory performance desperately tries to save this frustrating combination of dumb plot conveniences and an immature conclusion.
Watch the director talk about Kabir Singh with Film Companion, here.