Mandakini aka Mukku (Sara Ali Khan) is a feisty, young girl living in Kedarnath with her family.
Her father (Nitish Bharadwaj) is a local priest and things get complicated when Mukku falls in love with a muslim boy and local pithoo (human porter) Mansoor (Sushant Singh Rajput).
But is Kedarnath that perfect love story?
The screenplay has its strengths and weaknesses, but through the crest and trough of dramatic waves, what stands out as a solid force is young debutante Sara Ali Khan.
Her first performance on celluloid has the right amount of fire to spark a connection with the audience.
While the inter-faith romance between characters of different faith forms the core of the story, no one anticipates the other life-changing event, that is about to take this holy place by storm.
The names Mukku aka Mandakini and Mansoor have a nice ring to them. And their meet-cute is refreshingly un-drippy.
A dreamy view of the Himalayas
The film is based in the valleys and mountain ranges of Kedarnath and the drone-assisted cinematography by Tushar Kanti Ray, which explores the picturesque settings, is impressive.
The film captures the beauty of the Himalayas with crisp and artistic visuals. There’s also the quaint, small-town setting, where locals treat Hindu pilgrims with utmost respect and where Muslim porters, have no qualms in praying to Shiva and sharing the faith of the devotees.
The focus remains strictly on the love story, and while Mukku and Mansoor share some beautiful moments, the narrative does take a tad too long to set up their romance. What makes up for the slow pace of the film are the performances and the CGI-driven climactic portions. They come together to create a strong, dramatic impact.
Sara Ali Khan shines while Sushant Singh Rajput downplays his role
Sara Ali Khan as Mukku is a live wire. She reminds you of a young and boisterous Amrita Singh (her mother) in films like Betaab and Chameli Ki Shaadi.
Her confidence and on-screen charm are a testament to her ability and talent. She looks gorgeous in the desi-girl avatars and she owns every scene that she’s present in.
Sushant Singh, in a slightly under-played role, supports Sara’s efforts, but we’ve seen him give finer performances before.
Watch out for the scene where he sings Lata Mangeshkar’s Lag Ja Gale (from Woh Kaun Thi, 1964) where his character’s naivety is brought out with deftness.
Soundtrack of Kedarnath
For a love story, there are no romantic tracks that really hold your attention.
Apart from the song Namo Namo, Amit Trivedi’s music doesn’t create the required mood for a love saga like Kedarnath.
The writing by Abhishek Kapoor and Kanika Dhillon, subtly reflects upon the secular dynamics of Kedarnath. There’s also a brief comment on the commercialisation with hotels, malls and tourism, which has impacted the ecological balance of places like Kedarnath and contributed to natural calamities. These pertinent issues, which had a lot of potential, are briefly touched upon and then left in deep waters.
Director Abhishek Kapoor’s attempt to make a film set against the backdrop of a natural calamity of this proportion is ambitious and sincere. The setting is what makes a difference, because the simple and predictable love story doesn’t really rose above the water level.
The clever use of CGI mixed with live-action shots to depict moments like cloudburst and the pilgrim city submerging underwater creates an authentic impact. The execution in these areas, along with a memorable debut by Sara, is what keeps the film afloat.
Using the devastating 2013 Uttarakhand floods as a major plot twist should have given the film some depth. But the writing is sketchy, and the tone confused, never quite knowing whether to go quiet and life-like or to swell with wailing violins, especially when the waters start rising, and life-threatening danger starts looming.
In trying to please everyone, the film loses edge, and leads to a tepid cop-out. It’s a weepie minus the tears.
Watch the trailer