Any debut that lends expressions, insights, and promises alike, is a dream debut. More in my case, because this is my first movie review. Nevertheless, it has been a promising debut from the lead actor (female) of Kedarnath, Sara Ali Khan, who plays Mandakini (cutely shortened to Mukku). That’s it. I’m done.
Wait, here are the details:
We will start with the surprisingly underplaying Sushant Singh Rajput as the sober-looking Mansoor Khan—Believe me, this has nothing to do with Sara’s grandfather, Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi. So, Mansoor is from the “other” religion. He follows the footsteps of his father of helping pilgrims climb up to the Kedarnath temple. He is a genuine guy, who charges a genuine fee for his efforts. He even clicks a groupfie with pilgrims after their darshan is complete. And, manages to look fresh despite the tiring climb of 7 kilometers up the hill. Basically, he is everything that a girl looks for in a “relationship”—minus the possibly conflicting part of religion. But, we are diverting.
This movie doesn’t do justice to his acting talent. Just that his underplaying has helped his co-star. His frequently used non-verbal dialogues (read eyes) convey thoughts more than sufficiently, while Sara’s eyes convey Mukku’s intentions equally well. Whether it is Mukku throwing away her share of tea or her sister confronting and warning Mansoor to stay away from Mukku, the actors have portrayed emotions rather well. Kedarnath is a Hindi-heavy movie, so Sara’s efforts on improving her spoken Hindi have well-paid off. It is kind of cute to watch her call her own father “Panditji”. That adds a hint of situational humor, too.
As is the case with most star kid’s debut, all actors have performed well except for the kids themselves. Coming to the acting and the cast, the patriarch pandit is played by Nitish Bharadwaj, who is as composed as ever. Pooja Gor, the stern elder sister of Sara, has acted to the point and deserves a special mention. As the mothers of Mukku and Mansoor, respectively, Sonali Sachdev and Alka Amin have brilliantly timed their tears of both joy and fear. Arun Bali, playing the chief priest of the Kedarnath temple, brings the usual sense of stability to his role. Kullu, who is the villain and the fiancé of Mukku, has been well portrayed by Nishant Dahiya. Overall, full marks for the casting.
This brings us to the story and direction. To cover the weak plot, the director has used the backdrop of the May 2013 catastrophe; yes, just like most of KJo’s melodramatic movies that hide weak plots under the carefully woven “dying with Cancer” sympathies. In Kedarnath, it is the torrential rains, landslides, and loss of life that find an immediate connection with the Indian audiences. To top it all, the protagonist doesn’t make it to the rescue helicopter—you can figure out the remaining part. Not to point out the director’s fault, a couple of things could have well been changed. For instance, the meditating Himalaya Tyagi could have lived through the sluicing downpour and subsequent floods.
Basically, there isn’t much of a “story”: a plot that’s tried and tested for just about a million times. A poor boy and a rich girl. Wait. Let me rephrase: A poor Muslim boy and a rich Hindu girl. There you go. The plot or its absence thereof lends enough space for Sara to showcase her acting, dialogue delivery, and dancing skills. I will give bonus marks to the director for weaving in micro-plots that help the movie steer along smoothly to the conclusion. We all know what happened in those floods back in May 2013. So much was lost. The good thing is, the director has covered most of the real-life encounters. The VFX work is commendable.
While the movie is banned in Uttarakhand, and certain sections of the audience believe that the movie projects politically sensitive topics, it is the acting, or the promise of it, that comes out as the winner. A fair comparison that almost everyone will draw is between Sara and Dhadak’s female lead debutante, Jhanvi Kapoor. The funny thing is, both to-be stars do playacting (overacting, as we call it). I found Sara to be relatively better at acting. Just that in Sara’s absence, any other actor could do her role, unlike in the case of some established actors like Kangna Ranaut—particularly, in the case of Tanu Weds Manu and Queen. But, that’s asking for too much a little too early.
After watching Sara’s maiden performance in Kedarnath, I can safely say that she is one of the better actors to debut in 2018. Unlike Saif Ali Khan whose debut in Parampara didn’t earn him the required momentum, Sara’s debut looks to match more to her mother’s immensely successful debut in Betaab.
Long story short, success is a team’s effort. And, so is Kedarnath, a story inspired by real-life events. Kedarnath is an account of those few occasions that make us realize how tiny and powerless we are in comparison to the might of nature. Not all is lost, though: amidst the sludge full of dirt, debris, and dead bodies, it is the memories, faith, and Kedarnath temple that continue to stay tall—both in the movie and for real.
In the end, we have two love-struck souls departed by the never-bridging gap of life and death. Speaking of debuting in Bollywood, you can’t get more Bollywood-ishly typical than this!
My rating? 2.95/5.