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Sandeep Reddy Vanga directed ‘Kabir Singh’ is the Hindi language adaptation of the 2017 Telugu cult film ‘Arjun Reddy’, which featured breakout performances from the lead actors Vijay Deverakonda and Shalini Pandey. The original, also directed by Sandeep, subverted the Devadas archetype by juxtaposing it in modern times, and made its protagonist even more complex, with a mix of aggression, ambition and unjustified anger.

The Hindi adaptation faithfully follows the structure and plot of the original. The first half introduces us to Kabir Singh, an alcoholic surgeon whose life is marred by alcoholism and substance abuse. The story then cuts to an extended flashback where we get a peek of Kabir’s college days, his eruptive behaviour and the romance that sparked between him and a new student, a petite, demure Preeti Sikka (played by Kiara Advani), who seems to have no say in this relationship. The first half is replete with mass moments that might unfold like a throwback to the original. The impact of such sequences is effectively recreated, without spoiling the impulse of the scenes.

Kabir Singh works mainly due to its titular protagonist’s characterization. The character’s reactions and presence feel like a ticking time bomb that is waiting to explode. The moments of sheer unpredictability arises out of these situations. The film’s first half leads to a heart-pounding interval block, where you see a jilted Kabir Singh taking his first step to self-destruction. Kabir Singh’s first half has violent moments that add to the pulsating energy of the film.

The second half enters into the realm where Kabir faces the consequences of his actions. We get to see him struggle, and the alpha-male presence of Kabir Singh waters down as he gulps his poison. The film takes a slower turn in the second half due to this. One of the fine moments in the second half involves the scene where Kabir fights with his brother in his house. The fight feels more like a childish quarrel between two siblings. The second half ascends into a slow-burning drama.

For those who have seen the Telugu original, the film has nothing new to offer and might appear to be a line-by-line remake with a few changes (except that the scatological humour is toned down in the second half), and the treatment of its female protagonist, Preethi, might lead to questions of whether the character has any agency in her relationship with Kabir Singh. But overall, Kabir Singh will be an engrossing film for those who have never seen the original.

Shahid Kapoor conveys the angst of Kabir Singh with aplomb. Kiara Advani delivers her best performance in the climactic moments of the film. The songs are melodious and compliment the romance in a positive way. The film really cuts down the rawness and indie vibe of the original, which might be watered down by the polished production value of this film. Overall, Kabir Singh is a fairly engaging portrayal of a man’s journey from darkness to light.

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