Com­mu­nal melo­drama swept away by flash­flood

Hindustan Times (Patiala) - - Nation - RAJA SEN

Hindi cinema spells out star-kid con­nec­tions in trou­bling ways. Dur­ing Son­akshi Sinha’s de­but, Da­banng, her hero Sal­man Khan styled his on-screen mous­tache af­ter her fa­ther Sha­trughan Sinha’s fa­mous whiskers.

Now, Sara Ali Khan, daugh­ter to Am­rita Singh and Saif, makes her de­but in Ab­hishek Kapoor’s Kedar­nath. She stars op­po­site Sushant Singh Ra­jput — a lead­ing man ex­cel­lent at on-screen cricket — who plays a char­ac­ter named Man­soor Khan, rather like her leg­endary In­dia-cap­tain­ing grand­fa­ther. How­ever will this child es­cape grandaddy is­sues?

As first-timers go, Khan is okay. Her char­ac­ter Man­dakini is ex­ag­ger­at­edly feisty, the sort of­ten played by Pari­neeti Cho­pra, and, in an­other time, by Khan’s own eter­nally plucky mother, Am­rita Singh. Talk­ing nine­teen to the dozen is tricky, though, and Khan isn’t spon­ta­neous enough. The ac­tors around her are nat­u­ral — Pooja Gor, play­ing her el­der sis­ter, is dis­arm­ingly real — while Khan is play­act­ing. She is fine when silent and sad, though, and shows an in­ter­est­ing awk­ward­ness from time to time.

This film claims to be about the Kedar­nath floods of 2013, but the catas­tro­phe serves as an af­ter­thought, com­ing in at the very end of a 1980s-type star-crossed-ro­mance melo­drama. This is a tired story about dis­ap­prov­ing Hindu-Mus­lim par­ents tear­ing lovers apart, with the pan­dit pa­tri­arch played by Ni­tish Bhard­waj, the Aqua­guard Kr­ishna him­self.

The boy, Man­soor, is played by Sushant Singh Ra­jput, a re­li­ably solid ac­tor mak­ing the most of a badly writ­ten film. He’s a porter who carts peo­ple up and down the moun­tain on a stool strapped to his back. So slow is the film that I found my­self mus­ing on ques­tions about his ap­pa­ra­tus, a wicker chair con­verted into a ruck­sack: ba­si­cally, a palan­quin for those who travel solo. Does that there­fore make this an ‘an­quin’?

Af­ter a hack­neyed ro­mance, the last 20 min­utes see the screen flood­ing. The real life tragedy was mas­sive, but this one feels rushed. The dev­as­ta­tion is too dimly lit to be vis­ually im­pres­sive or evoca­tive, even as our hero ap­pears to now breathe un­der­wa­ter. Let’s call him Aqua­man­soor.

Kedar­nath is en­tirely for­get­table, but some may re­mem­ber the girl fondly — which might have been the film’s only goal. When Khan rides down the moun­tain on Ra­jput’s back, he calls her the heav­i­est load he’s lifted. She smiles and tells him to get used to it. Carry on, In­dian cinema, carry on.

Man­soor Khan (Sushant Singh Ra­jput) is a porter who car­ri­ers pil­grims to Kedar­nath tem­ple.

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