Rating – 2/5
Children born to fame often derive their identity from famous parents, but Hindi cinema spells out star-kid connections in truly warped fashion. For Sonakshi Sinha’s debut film, Dabanng, her hero Salman Khan told me he had decided to style his on-screen moustache on her father Shatrughan Sinha’s famous whiskers, surely an incredibly awkward creative call, reports Hindustan Times.
Now, Sara Ali Khan, daughter to Amrita Singh and Saif Ali Khan, makes her debut in Abhishek Kapoor’s wet weepie Kedarnath. She stars opposite Sushant Singh Rajput — a leading man famous for playing 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, Sara Ali Khan is okay. Her character Mandakini is exaggeratedly feisty, the sort often played by Parineeti Chopra and Anushka Sharma, and, in another time, by her own eternally plucky mother, Amrita Singh. Talking nineteen to the dozen is tricky, though, and Sara isn’t spontaneous enough. The actors around her are markedly natural — Pooja Gor, playing her elder sister, simply looks stern throughout, but she’s so damn real — while Sara is playacting. She is fine when silent and sad, and there is an interesting awkwardness to her from time to time. She may not have shone, but she seems interestingly atypical.
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 romantic melodrama. This is another tired story about disapproving Hindu-Muslim parents tearing lovers apart, the only twist being that the pandit patriarch is played by Nitish Bhardwaj, good old Lord Aquaguard Krishna himself. (I don’t mean to suggest this is any sort of intriguing role, it’s just nice to see him.)
The boy, Mansoor, is played by Sushant Singh Rajput, a reliably solid actor making his most in a badly written film, looking suitably overwhelmed at the possibility of romance. 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. Should it therefore simply be called an anquin?
Abhishek’s films feature moments of poetry that seem accidental. Here, the boy who never speaks up for his rights begins to hold court in front of a council of elders, directly after having kissed the talkative girl; as if she literally gave him her tongue. I say it feels accidental because of the way the film usually trades in Sooraj Barjatya tropes: a couple sip from the same glass in lieu of a kiss, a suitor is beaten up by privileged bad guys, parents commit violent emotional blackmail, and so on.
Then, the rain. For the last twenty minutes, the screen floods and the sound of the torrent is incessant enough to strain the bladder. A visit to the restroom, however, may be the only effect it has, since the devastation is too dimly lit to be visually impressive or emotionally evocative, while our hero seems to be able to breathe underwater. Let’s call him Aquamansoor.
Kedarnath is a pointless, entirely forgettable film, but some may remember the girl fondly — which may well be the film’s only task. In one scene, Sara rides down the mountain on Sushant’s back, and 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.