Communal melodrama swept away by flashflood
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.