Sara Ali Khan and Sushant Singh Rajput’s film Kedarnath has little imagination and falls flat despite an interfaith love story.
Bollywood has forever had issues with letting its actresses wear sweaters in extreme temperatures on screen. It seems to be a sexist rite of passage for actresses. Debutant Sara Ali Khan has been denied one too for her film Kedarnath, which released Friday. Kajol wasn’t given one while shooting in the Alps for Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge in 1995, neither was Madhuri Dixit in Alaska while dancing for Pukar in 2000, nor was Alia Bhatt in Kashmir for Student of The Year in 2012 and now this. This rigidity towards the evolution of female leads in Hindi cinema has a telling effect on the Abhishek Kapoor directorial. Much like its stance on sweaters, Kapoor reinforces several way-too-exploited clichés in his two-hour-long romance set in the backdrop of the disastrous 2013 Uttarakhand floods.
The movie takes off in the pristine valley of Kedarnath where actor Sushant Singh Rajput as Mansoor is being snorted at by a Hindu granny for daring to carry her up to the temple. But Mansoor the ‘pithoo‘ (porter) has his charm and a way with his words. The movie is thick with religious overtones and attempts to build its screenplay on the usual ‘Muslim boy falls in love with the pandit’s daughter’ narrative but fails to get the audience emotionally involved — although this theme was sensitively and beautifully used by Kapoor in his other film Kai Po Che! (2013).
Sara Ali Khan, daughter of Saif Ali Khan and Amrita Singh, in the role of Mukku, is a peppy, cricket-loving chatterbox with little imagination. Sara follows her directions meticulously as she easily slips into the mould of a regular Bollywood town belle, never letting you guess that this might be her first time on screen. If you look closely enough she even manages to conjure flashes of her mother from Betaab (1983) and Kareena Kapoor’s Geet in Jab We Met (2007).
After her realistic and mature interviews during the promotions of Kedarnath, you might have thought that Bollywood’s nepotism mill may have finally given us a sensible star; you are not wrong. You see, it is not Sara who fails the film, but the reverse.
Kanika Dhillon’s script makes up for Mukku’s lack of a sweater by cladding her with old clichés like a rainy night spent in a cave and a shared cup of tea with her beloved. Mansoor is a run-of-the-mill hero, which can be easily overseen much like his absence during the promotions of Kedarnath. He adds little except for the bravery slo-mo shots granted to him when the floods hit. However, their chemistry is cute and warm.
Kedarnath fails to convincingly place its actors in the setting. Mansoor, for example, despite being a low-earning pithoo wears high-range trekking shoes. It is these little giveaways that make you feel disconnected to the story. Tushar Kanti Ray’s cinematography captures the valley with its pristine waters and snow with an overdose of drone shots. The little knick knacks of a religious centre like Kedarnath is not given much relevance sans a few saffron-clad sadhus. The VFX team, however, does a decent job in recreating the massive flood that hit the place in 2013. Amit Trivedi’s songs fill in but are unlikely to enter your humming list.
Kedarnath falls flat despite having elements like an inter-faith love story and a natural disaster. Kapoor seems to have strayed into the comfortable zone of lacklustre romantic dramas after remarkable works like Rock On!! and Kai Po Che. For Sara’s sake, we hope she doesn’t get too comfortable in the cast of romance-seeking characters, it is pardonable only in the first few films of your career.
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