5:57pm, 24th June, 2019
‘Kabir Singh’ perfectly teaches the audience that you cannot judge a movie by its trailer. It is so because many people, just like me, thought it to be a romantic love story. Indeed, it comes under the genre of ‘Romantic movies’, but the protagonist is hardly a lover. Kabir Singh is a bully who abuses, someone who is an unparalleled example of toxic masculinity. In a nerve-tiring 175 minute, one could only realize that his noxiousness can never be attractive.
Kabir Singh falls in love at first sight with Preeti and decides on the spot that “yeh bas meri bandi hai” and takes immense pride in marking the woman as his “territory”, without her consent. This is the form of “loving” we are greeted with. Immersed in the world of drugs, drinks, emotionless sex and misogyny, he is shown as a ‘free-spirited’ human, one who hardly can walk freely in a democracy. This movie clearly fails to touch the pulse of the audience because of the context in which these lines, that were meant to be of some substance, are said.
There comes a scene when he is involved in some sort of violence while playing soccer in the campus. Devoid of any sort of regret or apology, Kabir Singh is tagged as a ‘swagger’ when he says, “This is me. This is who I am.” It gets all the more disputable and unsettled when the Dean of the college prefers not to bring him under any sort of disciplinary measure as a corrective. Reason? Because he is some sort of an out-of-the-world genius, an academically brilliant medical college student. This scene is directed to assert that Kabir Singh’s escalating machoism is excusable, and even tolerable, because he is a genius. The horrifying conclusion that “boys will be boys”, of which the movie is proud of, surfaces at every turn.
Fifty minutes into the movie, and then we hear the first proper line by Preeti ,”Kabir, what do you like in me?” To which he replies, “I like the way you breathe.” Misogyny and male entitlement are glorified and glamorized at every step. There is hardly any instance where we can actually feel Kabir Singh or empathize with this alcoholic, abusive jerk.
Kabir Singh is a remake of Arjun Reddy, a Telugu Original, which undoubtedly reinforces the same idea of the very problematic portrayal of the relationship between man and a woman.
Sandeep Reddy Vango has directed a film which might show Kabir’s actions as a handiwork of loveable, mad genius. He has zero understanding of the word ‘consent’ and kisses the woman he thinks he loves infront of everyone. What adds to the celebration of this toxic masculinity is the he also slaps her when she agrees with him that “You have no identity in college. All know you as my girl.” I do not want boys and men watching Kabir Singh take up the notion that women like dominant, aggressive and a violent boyfriend.
What on earth does this movie of dominance-submission imply, afterall? Kabir Singh’s aggressive, deplorable actions are taken for laughs ; either when he chases his maid when she mistakenly breaks a drinking glass or when he threatens to take his pants off after a woman asks why he has not shaved before the surgery.
Indian cinema is obsessed with romanticizing the stalker hero. Kabir Singh is so much in love that when she dies, he brings a dog home and names her “Preeti.” But mind you, his volatile temperament which is feared by all – colleagues, friends, students alike was not unreasonable. Kabir believes “he is not a rebel without a cause.”, but definitely irrationally violent without a cause.
Kabir Singh is a butt-numbing, 175 minutes of debatable establishing of a power equation. Male chauvinism, dominance and machoism are very usual movie tropes employed as well in this film. A horrendous ode to patriarchy and misogyny, this is film that reeks of sexism and objectification.
There are some who say , “It is just a movie and Kabir is just a character.” But sadly they are not aware that movies in the 21st century serve more than the purpose of entertainment alone. They teach, and people learn. It seeps deep into their psyche to act like heroes in the movie. If the movie, at all, was sending a message about how ‘toxic the story is’ or how ‘this is not love’, then it would have been okay. But the fact that it is normalizing the misogynistic behavior of an ugly sociopath is beyond controversial. Problematic might just be an understatement.