By the time this review was written, Kedarnath was already banned in seven districts of Uttarakhand fearing disruption of law and order. It’s an irony since the director has been so cautious in making this film that it just felt short of being really good.
The story in a sentence has already been out; that it's about a Hindu girl and a Muslim boy. But we'll, it's a story of the modern concept of development vs environment; of justifying tourism, business as opposed to faith. This film exhorts you to reconsider the concept of faith no matter whatever religion you belong to; it very sweetly exhorts you to reevaluate the modern concept of rampant development completely ignoring our natural surrounding; and it does exhort you to reconsider the age-old inter cultural, religious and traditional ties so integral to our society as a whole. Very softly, almost timidly, it says that there can't be this difference of 'us’ and 'them’ between Hindus and Muslims because our lives are very deeply intertwined.
‘Timidly’ I say because the film tries very hard to avoid all those dialogues, situations and even slogans (in one shot even the slogan ‘Har Har Mahadev’ has been muted) which might hurt ‘religious sentiments’ which nowadays have somehow become more important than poverty, hunger and even humanity.
It's not only tradition or culture but economically also, both the communities are interdependent. If the temple and Dharmshalas are run by the Hindus in the holy place of Kedarnath, then most of the pitthoo wallahs are Muslims who bring the pilgrims to the temple on horses’ back or on their own back. So they too have a special bond of faith with Lord Shiva.
Sara Ali Khan is impressive as a debutant. She has confidence and unbridled wildness in her eyes like Amrita Singh and élan of Saif Ali Khan. She succinctly symbolises a girl, Mukku, who is a victim of Brahminical patriarchy. Her father allows her engagement with the boy who has earlier been engaged to her elder sister only because it is he who chooses the younger one and she has no say in her own engagement. She resists in her own way.
But as her mother says very practically, only the idea of rebellion feels great, in fact it is torturous. But Mukku is stubborn and gives a strong fight.
In contrast, the protagonist Mansoor is a quiet, shy boy who gradually falls in love with this spunky girl. Knowing the hazards of their relationship, he has his own quite yet stubborn way to fight it.
Sushant Singh Rajput has always been appreciated as a good actor. But here he impresses with his undertones as a shy, sincere though scared pitthuwala, who knows what repercussions of falling in love with a Brahmin girl. Since I have been witness to some such love affairs, I can say for sure that he very genuinely portrays that scared lover who, though very committed in love, does not want any confrontation.
Nishant Dahiya is impressive too as Mukku’s fiance and a shrewd businessman, Kullu. Barring two or three shots, recreating the Uttarakhand floods on screen has not come out to be very effective. Though otherwise the director has beautifully captured the scenic beauty of Kedarnath.
As a whole, the film is a good one-time-watch. It falls short of being a really good film and you can actually feel the restrictions the director is working with.
Despite this feeling, that the film is falling short of something, Kedarnath should be watched for the soft and subtle message it tries to give even when fearing that it might become a victim of the censor or our so called ‘extra sensitive religious sentiments’. This caution has actually cost the director the soul of the film.