My apologies for praising ‘Kabir Singh’

Two years down the line, when I look at Kabir Singh today, I feel everyone associated with it should apologise to the nation for endorsing toxicity and misogyny

My apologies for praising ‘Kabir Singh’

Subhash K Jha

When Kabir Singh was released on June 21, 2019, I didn’t realise there could be anything deadlier than COVID-19. How could I? Covid was a good eight months away. Regrettably I praised the film for its gumption and audacity for daring to show its protagonist as a sodden, drugged zonked out chauvinistic sexist pig who doesn’t think before slapping his girlfriend for defending her father whom Kabir Singh (nee Arjun Reddy) had just insulted.

Kabir Singh comes from a place of complete toxicity. He does exactly what he wants, including performing a life-saving surgery in an inebriated condition, predictably killing the patient. This man should have been barred from not just the Medical Association but from being part of any cinematic narrative and discussion.

Yet we celebrated this jerk, not once but twice. When Vijay Deverakonda showed up as Arjun Reddy, there was a rebellious underbelly to the character, as if there was some dimension to his personal history that we were missing out on, and which made him the obnoxious creature that he appeared to be on screen.

Sandeep Vanga
Sandeep Vanga

When two years later Shahid Kapoor played the same character it was unpardonable from both ends, his playing such a creepy stalker/junkie and our approval and appreciation of the film which changed its title from Arjun Reddy to Kabir Singh. But nothing else had changed. Vijay Deverakonda and Shahid Kapoor were soul twins, the one as obnoxious as the other, if not more.

When I had asked the director Sandeep Vanga about the level of toxicity in Arjun/Kabir his response was, “One needs to be fully honest in a committed relationship. And that honesty can take on a violent form. And why is only Kabir slapping his girlfriend Preeti being talked about? What about the fact that she too slaps him back? It works both ways. In a true relationship the emotions can get raw and violent.”

He added, “My film went beyond the reviews. It has connected so deeply with the youngsters that such reviews didn’t matter at all. No one is flawless. Even the biggest heroes of our country have flaws. It is what makes them human. The level of success and the volume of hatred both took me by surprise. Arjun Reddy got a lot more love from the Telugu critics. A very senior Telugu critic took her 14-year-old daughter to see Arjun Reddy. That was my best review.

“And she is a true feminist, not a pseudo-feminist. After the love given to Arjun Reddy, I wasn’t ready for the bashing that critics gave Kabir Singh. For those who think I am angry, all I can say is, that’s not me. That’s Kabir Singh. How Arjun Reddy/Kabir Singh feels is not exactly what I feel. Violence may be his way of expressing love. It’s not mine.”

I disagree with Vanga vehemently. I feel somewhere the artiste and his art are one. Lata Mangeshkar couldn’t have sung Allah tero naam if she wasn’t a pure heart. Hrishikesh Mukherjee couldn’t have made Gangs of Wasseypur and Ram Gopal Varma wouldn’t dream of doing Munnabhai. Anurag Kashyap would never be able to make Anand.

Incidentally Venga’s next film is called Animal. It was earlier titled Devil.

Arjun Kapoor had a miraculous escape. His father Boney Kapoor had flown to Hyderabad to meet Sanjeev Vanga for the remake rights of Arjun Reddy for his son. But Vanga was committed to Shahid Kapoor. I wonder what Shahid’s two lovely children will make of Kabir Singh when one day, they sit down to catch the best of Daddy on screen.

Today when I look at Kabir Singh I feel everyone associated with it should apologise to the nation for endorsing toxicity and misogyny. The “hero” who is so drunk he wets his own pants and chases his female house help out of his home down the road, actually got rewarded at the end the film for his behaviour. His girlfriend now married and pregnant, forgives him and takes him back. And they lived happily ever after?!

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