Kedarnath Is A Run Of The Mill Love Story; So Why All This ‘Hurt’ And Protests?

Posted: December 11, 2018

With beautiful cinematography and a fairly predictable love story, Kedarnath is a nice enough watch, but it’s got absolutely nothing to offend you (unless you believe women are property).

After a really long wait and a difficult production journey, Kedarnath finally hit the theatres and I decided to catch a show over the weekend. I will admit, after watching the first trailers of the movie, I was waiting for it; maybe not eagerly but I still wanted to catch it on the big screen.

Going with the title of this write up, let me talk about the movie first or rather my perception or take away from it before arriving at why does it seem to have hurt people to the extent of being banned in major parts of the state where it is based. I will start the review by stating the strongest aspect of the movie: it is beautiful. The cinematography is the movie’s biggest strength.

Kedarnath is a love story set in the holy town of Kedarnath, with the 2013 deluge of Uttarakhand in the background. Yes, it is exactly in that order. It has been widely promoted as a disaster film, but it is the love story which gets the most attention, such that the disaster portrayed gets relegated to the background. The verdant beauty of the Himalayas has been captured to perfection by cinematographer Tushar Kanti Ray. In fact, the song Namo Namo Shankara is a treat to the eyes and ears both. The beauty of the Himalayas, the spirit of the pilgrims making the arduous trek to the shrine and Amit Trivedi’s vocals make for a surreal combination.

What’s new about this love story?

Now coming to the story, there is nothing new or innovative the movie has to offer in that respect. But the presentation of the story is appealing and manages to retain the attention of the audience. To summarize it, the movie revolves around the love story of a girl from a wealthy and powerful Hindu family and a boy from a Muslim household, who works as a ‘pithoo’ or porter to earn his livelihood. The rich girl-poor boy story has been done to death by Bollywood, and so has the angle of religious differences, so what’s new that this movie has to offer?

Well, the director Abhishek Kapoor, has an made an attempt at presenting it with a fresh perspective. So here you have the girl who makes the first move and it’s the boy here who is a reserved introvert. Well, many would say what’s new about that, and yes, in real life today it may be nothing much; in the world of Hindi cinema though, that’s quite a brave step. But that’s where the bravery of the girl’s portrayal ends. She is shown as a rebel, who is on an eternal fight with her father for deciding her fate without her consent and she is an avid cricket lover. But if you dwell deeper, she is not doing anything purposeful with her life. She does not harbour ambitions or dreams of making it big or even achieving a goal. Her sole aim seems to be infuriating her father or showing her fiancée her disinterest.

Though she is portrayed as a brave and strong minded woman, you realize that she is just Bollywood’s idea of strong minded. This involves just spewing expletives or being brazen – I wish this stereotypical portrayal would be done away with some day soon. There were facets of the story which could have been explored more. The complexity in the relationship of both the sisters or rather the underlying jealously; the fact that women in traditional environments are treated as possessions to be acquired or given away or more importantly how the accepted social conditioning of patriarchy and male privilege results in enmity among women, as they hold each other responsible rather than the man who caused the bitterness to massage his ego.

What could be better?

There are times in the movie, when you feel the writers Kanika Dhillon and Abhishek Kapoor had several stories in mind and decided to club them all together. There are aspects of the story you wish had been dwelt upon a little more. One facet the movie does dwell upon is mindless fanaticism. On one side you have Mansoor, a poor porter, who believes in ringing the bell at the temple every day as a token of thanks for ensuring his livelihood. To him god is the same and he believes in serving humanity as the biggest service. On the other hand is Kullu, an upcoming leader in the temple management. He assumes its only people of his community, who have a right to access the temple. He is vocal about his hate for other religions or people of other faiths. Cleverly disguised under the facade of serving pilgrims, he wants to give shape to his greed of increasing the number of hotels in the hills. But he is quick to call a man who quotes the scriptures to show that this kind of abuse of nature will prove fatal as old fashioned. The message here is quite clear: fanaticism makes your views and your foresight myopic and only spells doom.

Now coming to the portrayal of the natural calamity which caused wide spread destruction in the State of Uttarakhand in 2013, the biggest kudos goes to the VFX team. But there is a grouse I have here – the aspect about exploitation of nature and flouting of laws and the immense greed of people which ultimately led to the deluge could have been dwelt upon more or at least in a better manner. The greed to milk the maximum out of tourism and the mindless destruction of the natural surroundings is just mentioned in a fleeting way, though the last 10-15 mins captures the devastation caused by the floods in the most chilling manner. What left me astonished was that even in such destruction the temple stood still. This only grows on to prove, ancient structures were built keeping in mind the constraints of nature. Our ancestors believed in living in harmony with nature, but over time we started taking nature for granted giving precedence to our own greed. The end result is there for all to see.

Coming to the performances, Sara Ali Khan has given a very confident performance for a newcomer. She has the spunk, charm and the talent needed and definitely is an actor to watch out for, provided she chooses to portray variety in her roles. Sushant Singh Rajput as always gives a strong performance. Nitish Bharadwaj and Nishant Dahiya fit their roles to a T and give a natural performance. Sadly, small screen star Pooja Gor doesn’t have much to do in the movie, but makes good use of the limited scope she is offered.

What’s there to offend?

In summary, this was a run of the mill love story set in a holy town. So what offended people to an extent, that it got banned in most parts of Uttarakhand, the state where it was picturised? Not just this, there were several people who came up on social media to say how hurt they were on watching the movie and that their religious sentiments had been insulted. The one and only grouse that all these hurt people had was the girl in the movie chose to fall in love with a man of different religious faith. This clearly shows the right of ownership society exercises over women. No, it’s not limited to any community, it’s the same everywhere. It’s this right of ownership, which is the root cause of honour killings. It’s high time people accepted that women are as human as anybody else and they have a right to their choices and to lead life they way they would like.

If you would ask me whether the movie deserves a watch, I would say ithat f you are a romantic at heart it definitely does – the romance here has more charm and less mush. The brilliant cinematography definitely warrants a watch and another big reason is Sara Ali Khan. Here is a star kid who was brave to accept that she got it easy but is definitely out to prove she is worthy of it. The Sushant Singh fans, you definitely would enjoy the movie, but will come out of the movie hall a tad bit upset and no, I can’t reveal the reason.

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