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Misogyny and Toxic Masculinity in Kabir Singh Made Me Sick to My Guts. Can’t Believe Such Content Is Still Acceptable in 2019

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Braving the three hours in the cinema hall watching Kabir Singh has been a disturbing experience for me in a true sense. More so, was due to the people around me cheering up for what was a reason of anxiety to me.

While at work on Friday, I was going through a Twitter review thread of the movie Kabir Singh. The reviews were raving Shahid’s performance and the film except for just one review of a woman that said she just couldn’t bear it and had to walk out in the middle. That tweet looked a little out of place, among all those raging reviews. But when I was in the same shoes later in the evening, I could feel that woman.

The cinema hall was huge and almost houseful; there were abundant families and teenagers in the audience. I was a lone movie-goer in-between a family with a teenager son and a couple.

So, the film opens in the present of Kabir Singh where he is just too sexually desperate that he can fuck any girl, any moment and anywhere. He randomly calls his girl students, and ask around about girls who will drop their pants off for him. The film quickly drifts to his past; to the last year of his college where he is the rowdiest student. But this riotous student is not just a loiterer of streets, he is the best medical student his medical college has ever seen. Just FYI, this is one of the best medical colleges of India we are talking about.

After getting in another feud with college rivals on the football ground and beating the shit out of them, Kabir gets suspended for a month. On the last day before suspension, he sees a bunch of fresher girls aligned in a row in college and spots Preeti Sikka, visibly the most beautiful of them all.

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That’s the moment Preeti, a shy and panicked fresher girl gets labeled as Kabir’s love interest. Everyone on the campus and around is warned by Kabir and his stalwarts to never even look at her. Seniors and juniors start gathering to see the girl labeled as Kabir’s property.

2-3 days later, out of nowhere, Kabir pecks her on the cheek. And soon after, he starts coming to pick her up, intervening the class, and give her academic lessons in private.

Then one fine evening, when Preeti is sitting on a bench in the garden of her hostel, he comes and parks his bike and just lies down there settling his head on her lap. The noteworthy fact is, they haven’t spoken a word or expressed any feelings of love so far.

The day of Holi arrives, and the same rival students Kabir beat on the football ground come and almost rape Preeti as revenge just because she is Kabir’s love interest. That girl legit gets physically molested because Kabir Singh has an interest in her. Mind it!

It’s the first half summed up for you.

In all this, Kabir’s female friends are all supportive and really happy for him. Right after, one day, Preeti hurts herself accidentally in the foot and hearing this, Kabir goes straight to her hostel, packs up all her stuff and gets her shifted to his room in the boys’ hostel. Again, it’s one of the best national medical colleges.

Just too much to process here. So many questions, but no explanations.

Coming from a background, where stalking, eve-teasing and low-key physical abuse is a part and parcel of a girl’s growing years, this chunk of the story sent me to a panicky state. Imagining myself in Preeti’s place and being so abusively stalked by the biggest goon of the college was a terrifying idea.

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There is this scene where Kabir and Preeti are caught in an emotional situation after Preeti’s father declares that he will never marry his daughter to a goon like Kabir. Kabir is so mad at her father that he is not ready to listen to her pleadings while she is trying to tell him that she will talk to her father and get him convinced eventually. Refusing to calm down, at one point, Kabir tells Preeti that generations of her family have existed so that one day, their daughter could be married to Kabir Singh. When she tries hard to calm him down and make him listen to her, Kabir slaps her hard and just leaves.

Rest is the story of severe self-destruction of a thriving surgeon who has NEVER performed a critical surgery in a sober state of mind.

I almost walked out of it in the first half, but the reason holding me back was the search for at least some explaining or redemption to this character of Kabir. I sincerely expected some confrontation or downplaying his ultra-toxic masculinity and entitlement to people and their lives, towards the end of the film. But I was expecting a little too much or just being a total naive to be expecting so, where people around me were clapping continuously at crass jokes and activities of Kabir. The film was giving people what they like, or people were liking what they were given.

The most dignified moments of the film and character include a scene where Kabir asks his elder brother when he is giving him the good news (pregnancy). And when the brother says that he just got married and might plan his family after about two years, Kabir is utterly startled that what kind of love is this where you have to plan a baby. According to him, it’s only a matter of love and just happens, you don’t have to think or plan it.

And all this life, I thought that planning together when to bring a new life in this world or not doing it ever was what love is.

Being hailed as his career’s best performance, what I am wondering about is why Shahid Kapoor even chose to do such a film. Now, he also has a daughter. He is glorifying a character (remember, not portraying but glorifying) her daughter would never even like to be present in close proximity of in future. There are so many worrying questions that arise including ‘is this what we are giving to our youth?’ To young boys, Kabir and to young girls, Preeti?

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I know I can’t moot this discussion or voice my opinion on it openly because half of the people I will be addressing to are the ones who have already loved its original version of Arjun Reddy and the rest half are going gaga over Kabir Singh and his formidable persona of a jilted lover.

Even more interestingly, in this much-celebrated tale of romance, there is hardly any love story. There is not a single scene where the couple is seen supporting each other, conversing about something significant or wondering about future together.

It’s undoubtedly one of the worst films I have ever watched while taking storytelling, direction and plot all in due consideration. With this, all my hopes of responsible cinema are strangulated because it’s not going to stop being produced and what’s worse is; it’s not going to stop getting myriads of audience applauding and cheering for it.

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