Kabir Singh: The “Ideal Anti-Hero”?

Rabaani Hora
Jul 27, 2019   •  79 views

Despite the fact that it has been over a month since Kabir Singh released, the film still continues to stir up heated debates. The film, starring Shahid Kapoor and Kiara Advani, has faced a lot of criticism for its toxic glorification of masculinity and misogyny. But is it fair to criticize a movie just because of its flawed lead character? A movie should be rated on the basis of acting performances, direction, script and last but not the least for its quality content. But Kabir Singh is getting bashed so badly by the “femi-nazis” of the society.

In a recent interview, Shahid commented on the success & criticism - "So I frankly felt that the criticism [for Kabir Singh] was a bit misplaced. There have been films in the recent past which had characters exhibiting similar traits but no one really picked on them this way. The fact that people loved Kabir Singh has just told me that people watch the film for what it is. We were always honest, right from the very first promo of the film that it’s a fictional account of a very flawed character. There is no protagonist or antagonist in the film. Kabir is the protagonist, he is the antagonist. So all the issues lie within him."

He added, "You can’t take a simplistic view of a very complex character like Kabir. There are many layers to him. Some layers are deplorable and terrible. And some layers are actually beautiful. The layer of unconditional love, of love in which you are ready to destroy yourself was actually a very beautiful layer. The layer of violence and I never saw this as misogyny- because Kabir Singh’s violent streak was not towards any particular sex. His aggression was inherent in his personality; it was not gender related."

Shahid said that they were not trying to be politically correct with the film and that it might be "refreshing" to watch a film that's "raw and bare".

While Shahid’s character, Kabir Singh was a mere anti-hero trying to overcome his own flaws and issues; critics and a major chunk of the audience believed that depicting him as hero glorified his misdeeds.

Who are anti-heroes & why are we drawn to them?

Simply put, the anti-hero is the lead character in a story, who does not have the traditional qualities of the admirable ’moral hero’. He or she lacks courage, kindness and nobility, but most notably, moral goodness. It's a character fashioned with scars and demons, dismissing the ordinary societal norms for his or her own particular plan. It has turned into an interesting phenomenon that we are rooting for somebody who is disregarding all that we've at any point known as right.

It might be because their moral complexities more closely mirror our own. They’re flawed. They’re still developing, learning, growing and sometimes in the end, they trend toward heroism. We root for their redemption and wring our hands when they pay for their mistakes. They surprise us. They disappoint us. And they’re anything but predictable.

We follow these characters throughout their journeys: their quests for redemption, fame, fortune and love -- the same common goals we find ourselves longing after. And like ourselves, we see the selfishness that comes with attaining goals and dreams. We watch other people commit betrayal and wrongdoing that comes with human nature.

While the antiheroes’ incompatibility to follow societal rules, lays the foundation for compelling drama, it’s their unlikely virtue in the face of relatable circumstances that emotionally connects us to them.

The Real Question

Why is there an expectation for movies to be morally & politically correct? Why are the lead characters expected to be goody-two-shoes? Why does the audience want a new story but prefers a sugar-coated version over the raw and gritty version which is full of flaws & imperfections? Why does the villain have to be an external person who wants to destroy the hero? Why can’t the hero be his own villain- reason behind his own inner turmoil, sufferings & destruction? Is the Indian audience so used to the monotonous story and depiction of a “good” hero & “bad” villain?

The audience who have watched Kabir Singh, most likely has also watched movies like Sanju, Gangs of Wasseypur etc. who are based on flawed characters & their journeys. In Gully Boy, Alia Bhatt’s character was similar to Kabir’s, who was dominant, possessive and often physically violent. But unlike Kabir Singh, her character was applauded for being a strong, independent woman.

Having said that, this article is not to justify Kabir’s actions and behavior in the film, but to make people realize that this film is a depection about the main character’s obsessive & destructive love and how he is his own villain.