Kaabil LIVE review: Hrithik Roshan's acting abilities should be used in a better-scripted film
Here's a by-the-minute lowdown, as Kaabil unfolds on screen.
On a Wednesday morning in central Mumbai, the theatre for the Kaabil FDFS was empty, with most people at work. Shah Rukh Khan comes on the screen in his Raees avatar, to remind you to switch off your cell phones. And with that reminder to the real-world box-office battle brewing between two of Bollywood's big releases, we're off.
Here's a by-the-minute lowdown, as Kaabil unfolds on screen.
We start with an introduction to the protagonist Rohan's 'senses': Sound (Hrithik Roshan speaks to someone on the phone); he eats and smells; he helps out a neighbour's child to fix a bicycle by listening to its bell.
The child asks him how he can do all these things (despite his visual impairment), and Hrithik replies that it's all about knowing the way in your head.
Rohan is a dubbing artiste for children's cartoons. He listens to their English versions and does very cute Hindi animal impersonations.
Rohan soon meets Supriya or Su (Yami Gautam), who is also blind. They're discussing marriage their marriage upon the pursual of a neighbour. She asks, "Do negatives positive kaise ho sakte hain?" After some cheesy dialogues, their marriage is fixed. (If you decide to watch Kaabil, cheesy dialogues will be a part of the whole film).
But there's trouble in paradise — and it takes the form of Amit (Rohit Roy), the local thug.
At this point, Hrithik is doing a rather convincing portrayal of a visually impaired person while Yami seems to be struggling. Unfortunately, there's virtually no chemistry between the lead pair. It seems quite forced at times.
Unlike (in) the trailer, Hrithik's acting comes across as very restrained.
Meanwhile, there's a song-and-dance routine in store for Su and Rohan with 'Mon Amour'. The only thing Su and Rohan have in common so far is that they are visually impaired, their neighbour auntie wants them to marry, and they can dance with abandon. It's not completely convincing.
This also indicative of the one problem that Kaabil does seem to have: an erratic narrative. It's difficult to decide at this point if they want sympathy for the characters or they want them to be cool.
What ruins a perfectly good story and makes it clichéd is making love the inspiration for the narrative: Here are two people with a disability, who are trying to maneuver through life. There are many scenes through the first 30 minutes that focus more on the surroundings, or the life of a visually impaired person — which are all quite nicely done. But that they have to tie it to a love story is disappointing.
Coming back to the narrative, Su and Rohan find a house together and he tells her, "Mere zindagi ka maksad hai ki tumhaare liye kaabil banoo". Cue a tacky song called 'Main tere kaabil hoon yaar'. Why? Surely there are more interesting things to say/explore. Anyway, by the end of the song, they've moved into their new home.
Su and Rohan's 'first night' is the subject of much conjecture among the local goons, including Amit. He makes a crass remark of how they must be doing everything "touching-feeling".
The tension begins to build at this point. Amit and his fellow thugs are shown harassing Su a few times; Rohan fights back and warns them: "Kamzor mat samajh".
The stage is set for the impending threat: Su is raped and she and Rohan are kidnapped for 24 hours so all evidence of the crime can be destroyed. Su doesn't get any sense of her attacker's identity. When they go to the police, the cops are rude as there's no evidence. It is now that the story becomes gripping (although it is still trying to cash in on the sympathy factor).
The incident changes the couple's lives: Su believes nothing will be the same between them and develops a self-sacrificing mindset. Rohan, on the other hand, is restless and distant, because he feels helpless.
She misinterprets his silence and frustration as a sign that his feelings towards her have changed, and kills herself. It is after she dies that Rohan realises Su has been raped a second time. She writes him a Braille letter where she mentions that she wanted to save him from any further trouble, so decided to end her life.
[Side note: It's disheartening that rape is portrayed as the end of life. A stronger statement would have been made had the couple decided to fight this together. Why does have the girl have to die (along with her morality) for it to be serious film?]
Meanwhile, Amit's elder brother, (Ronit Roy) who is a collector, comes to visit Rohan. The elder Roy is by far the best actor to have appeared on screen so far.
This is where we get to the half-way point in the film. Post-interval, Rohan's transformation from helpless lover to avenging husband is complete. The background music changes to indicate this, as do his expressions. Hrithik so far is quite good in the film, but the scenes aren't adding up. For instance, even the one that shows his transformation could have been monumental, but is held back by clichéd dialogues.
It highlights the basic problem with Kaabil: Every time there's a strong scene — and Hrithik helms most of them, be it with his impressive dubbing or his silent response to the rape, or the scene with the cops before the interval where he says he is going to take matters into his own hands) — they find a way to bog it down with something clichéd or overly emotional. Everything about this film is over-the-top, apart from Hrithik's performance, and Ronit Roy, whose politician act is one of the best and most effective on screen in a while. In fact, Ronit is clearly the best actor in this film.
When Hrithik does switch into 'revenge' mode, he pits his other senses against those of his enemies. And they prove to be no match. He uses his 'disability' to his advantage. Now if only this tone had been maintained consistently throughout the film.
The songs tend to slow down the film and present a confusing message about what Kaabil really wants to be. At least 30 minutes could have been edited out to make for a much crisper viewing experience.
Having watched Kaabil I can only say that Hrithik Roshan's considerable acting abilities deserved a better scripted movie. More's the pity, because this is a film that starts off smartly, but stretches unnecessarily in a bid to establish Hrithik as the ultimate saviour. Everyone's trying too hard by the end to make it Hrithik's heroic story.
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