Sara shines in a wannabe Titanic

Kedarnath Movie Review
Sara Ali Khan shines in Abhishek Kapoor's Kedarnath

At the back of many Bollywood directors’ minds, there seems to be this desire to reach Hollywood standards.  So, one just fell flat trying to copy Pirates Of The Caribbean, and another slips up trying to outdo Titanic.

Abhishek Kapoor’s Kedarnath tries to be so many things at once, that it ends up being nothing much. Set in the picturesque pilgrim town of Kedarnath (lovingly shot by Tushar Kanti Ray) in Uttarakhand, it is a love story, class and religion clash, environmental caution and disaster movie rolled into one—but no aspect really stands out.

Mansoor (Sushant Singh Rajput) is an energetic and cheerful ‘pitthoo’—the men who guide pilgrims up the steep hillside on horseback or on their own backs.  His religion has never come in the way, he chants and rings temple bells like all the natives. Mandakini aka Mukku (Sara Ali Khan) is the disgruntled daughter of a priest and landlord, perpetually grumpy because she was forced to get engaged to her sister Vrinda’s (Pooja Gor) fiancé Kullu (Nishant Dahiya). Why her parents permitted this humiliation of their older daughter is not clear,  but at least Vrinda has reason to be glum.

For some reason, Mukku takes a shine to Mansoor—it’s not as if she is short of suitors; probably because of her Facebook profile, men keep landing up on her doorstep to ask for her hand in marriage. But Mukku pursues Mansoor with such desperation that he finally capitulates. He takes her up the hill over a few days, for some inexplicable errand; on the way, they flirt, share glasses of tea and on a stormy night a kiss by the fireside.

Meanwhile, there are disputes because greedy Kullu wants to build a hotel and bring more tourists to the town, while sensible Mansoor warns of overburdening the land. Suddenly his religious identity is thrown in his face. The real deluge in Uttarakhand is mentioned right at the start, so there is no surprise, but the battle between the Muslim pitthoos and the Pandits comes without preamble. Kullu simply decides to throw them out, and there is no protest.

Mukku’s romance is exposed by her jealous sister, and she is forced to marry Kullu. In spite of the threatened hotel not yet being built, the hillside collapses anyway taking with it homes and people, while the river swells up in uncontrollable fury to take the movie into calamity zone a la Titanic, but without a fraction of the tension or terror.

After sitting through 150 minutes of the film, there is no payoff—the love story has no spark, the communal flare up has no heat and the flood has no impact. If anyone comes out of this mess unharmed, it is probably Sara Ali Khan, who makes a confident debut, and will undoubtedly get more opportunities to prove her talent.

Kedarnath
Directed by Abhishek Kapoor
Cast:  Sushant Singh Rajput, Sara Ali Khan, Nishant Dahiya, Pooja Gor, Nitish Bharadwaj and others
Rating: Two stars

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Deepa Gahlot is one of India’s seniormost and best known entertainment journalists. A National Awardwinning film critic, Deepa has watched more movies and theatre than most people in the country. An author of several books on film and theatre, she has had an extremely successful run as head of theatre and film at the National Centre for Performing Arts, Mumbai, during which she helped nurture several original productions. For Xyngr, Deepa Gahlot reviews theatre and cinema.