Kedarnath Review (SPOILERS): Oh Good, the Old Brahmin Man Survived, He’s the MOST Important

OH THIS MOVIE!!!!!!  Mad me so angry at how they ended it!  But I only got angry because I cared, the rest of the film was good enough to make me care.  If you want to know what happens and why I am angry, you can read the rest of the review.  If you want to go in fresh, you can read the No Spoilers review.

Whole Plot in Two Paragraphs:

In the valley around the Kedarnath temple, Sushant is a local boy working as a porter carrying tourists up to the temple.  And he is Muslim, part of the ancient Muslim community there.  Sara Ali Khan is the daughter of a Brahmin Priest who runs the hostel for pilgrims by the temple on behalf of the temple committee.  She is engaged to another Brahmin, nephew of the head priest.  He was meant to marry her older sister, but he dumped the sister and switched to her when she grew up to be prettier.  And her father agreed.  In rebellion (since there is no other way to rebel), Sara flirts with the local boys and convinces them to come to her house and propose in order to embarrass her father and fiance.  But Sushant is different, they both notice each other and then Sara makes the first move and hires him as her regular porter as she goes from her family home to a neighboring village to help at her uncle’s shop.  She talks and talks to him and flirts outrageously and finally gets enough of a reaction to know he feels the same way.  They are trapped in the rain together, share stories of their childhood, and then kiss.  Her jealous sister tells Sushant that Sara is just flirting with him as she has flirted with all the other boys.  Sara can’t defend herself when he confronts her, but starts following him around everywhere, finally sitting in the rain outside his house.  Her sister tries to cover for her, but she is found out and her family and the rest of the Brahmin community come for her planning to throw out all the Muslims.  Which, not-so-coincidentally, will also open up space for the new luxury hotel they are planning.  INTERVAL

Sara is taken home by her family who move up her wedding.  Sara insists that Sushant will come for her.  The Muslim porter community prepares to leave the valley, but Sushant won’t leave without Sara. Sara is married and then tries to kill herself.  Her family saves her, and her now-husband taunts Sushant with the news.  Sushant runs to Sara and promises he will come back for her that night when she is recovered, so they can leave the valley together.  Her husband plans to take his band of priests and kill Sushant and drive out all the Muslims “in Shiva’s Name”.  And then the rains and the floods start.  Sushant sends his mother with the other porters into the mountains and runs towards Sara.  Sara and her family are trying to gather the guests of their hostel in a top floor, her husband and his mother arrive driven in by the storm and Sara refuses to go to him.  And then the floor crashes down and her sister and mother are swept away along with half the other people.  Sara and her father and a few others make their way to the temple, Sushant finds them there just as the water sweeps down.  He grabs her hand in the flood, and her father holds on to her and all three are saved.  After the water goes down, they make their way to a house that is still standing and wave at an Indian army helicopter that is coming to save them.  Sushant sends up the woman and child who are with them first, then Sara’s father, then Sara, and finally prepares to go himself.  But there is only space for one more person and the father of the family hasn’t gone yet, so Sushant sacrifices himself and sends him instead.  3 years later, Sara is still living with her father and running the hostel, dressed in white like a widow.

 

 

Do you see why I really really hate the end?  Maybe not.  It’s not just that Sushant dies, it’s that he dies so that Sara’s father can live.  Sara’s father is saved before Sara herself even!!!!  Because the older Hindu man is the most important person for India.  Women, children, young men, they should all be sacrificed so he can live.  And that is the happy ending.  This cowardly short-sighted shallow man, he is the one who lives.  And the film showed us, over and over, why exactly he did not deserve to live.  Or, to put it another way, why his survival was not a happy ending.  We see him waffle and fail to speak up at committee meetings when he knows what is being planned is wrong.  We know he sold out both his daughters by breaking the engagement of one and forcing the engagement of the other.  We know he stood by and did nothing while his future son-in-law planned a mini-genocide.  We know he doesn’t seem to care that his daughter tried to kill herself.  And we know that, just this exact second, he took the place in the helicopter before giving it to his daughter.

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(Love is a pilgrimage, and there is no reward at the end because an old powerful man blocks your entrance)

There is a clear ending I was expecting here, a last minute touching redemption moment when he would dive out of the helicopter thus making space for Sushant.  Admitting he was wrong to be against Muslims, admitting he was wrong to be against their love, a metaphorical sacrifice of stupid old patriarchal prejudiced India for a better version of young India.  And then, it doesn’t happen.  At the end of the film, Sara is broken and sad, Sushant is dead, Sara’s mother is dead, Sara’s sister is dead, maybe Sara’s horrible husband is dead (we are cheated out of his death scene, I am guessing another cut because they thought it would make us sad to watch the abusive murder die), but by golly her father is still alive and chugging along unchanged!!!!

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(You know who made the right change and died so his daughter could live with the man she loved?  The heroine’s Nazi father in Foreign Correspondent. An actual NAZI was more unselfish and understanding than the father in this.)

And retroactively, this ending says that the whole meaning of the film is wrong.  What has been going on around the central love story is a discussion of if the future of the valley is to become more profit focused and purely Hindu, or if it will maintain the balance between small local businesses, hardworking porters, and Muslim and Hindu living in harmony.

What this is getting at is the competing concepts of India. There is a wonderful beautiful ideal of India as a place where religion blossoms and and grows together, where Hindus celebrate Eid and Muslims play Holi, and everyone loves Christmas.  Where everyone loves their own God and everyone else’s God too.  Where Amar Akbar and Anthony are all brothers, where Humanity is the only religion, where the most popular religious symbol is one combining all of the religions together and the most popular hymn is “Raghupati Raghav”.  Each religion does not take from the other, but adds to it.

(Did not realize there is now a version that cuts the “Allah is also his name” line.  Yuch!)

That is what Sushant’s character and his friends represent.  Sushant is a devout Muslim, that is his identity.  But when he is carrying pilgrims to the temple, he sings a hymn to Shiva, and he rings the bell when he gets there.  He respects their pilgrimage, he respects Shiva, even if they aren’t pilgrims from his religion and Shiva isn’t his God.  Sushant’s friends include a Shiva Bhakti devotee, a poorer Hindu, and other Muslim porters.  They all live happily together, and are earnestly devoted to serving the pilgrims who come to them every year.  The Hindu temple committee wants to develop them away, purify the valley.  Sushant stands up in the meeting to defend his friends and himself, reminds them that it is not “their” valley, it is “our” valley.  The Muslims have been there for generations, they love the pilgrims and the temple and the community.  It’s a powerful speech.

And then the film tells us that none of it matters.  Sushant dares to fall in love with a Hindu woman, and that’s all the excuse needed to get rid of them all.  The Brahmins threaten and beat Sushant (while Sara’s father, shocker, stands by and does nothing) and the Muslims realize it is time to leave, pack their possessions on their backs and wander away looking for a place that will still accept them.  This is not their home after all, nor their people.

The only place the Muslim has in this society is to die so the Hindus can live.  To serve the Hindus and go away when they are not wanted.  While the whole film uses Sushant’s character and his relationship with Sara to argue for an open society, it takes a sudden veer away from that in the last third.  After building up a strong argument for how Sara is taking control of her own life and fighting the patriarchy on behalf of both herself and her sister, for how her father is useless and wrong, for how Sushant’s simple sincere love for all people is the right way to live.  All the way through Sara’s forced wedding, her determination that Sushant is the one that will be strong enough to fight for her, right up to when the floods start.  And then suddenly it turns from Sushant fighting the world to save Sara, to Sushant sacrificing himself to save the world (well, the Hindu world, the one that matters).

It didn’t have to go that way!!!!  There was another option built right in.  The Hindu and Muslim communities that have been fighting each other, the family that has been fighting each other, coming together to help everyone survive.  The floods start, Sara and her family fight through them, her icky husband is selfish and reveals his true ugliness, Sushant saves Sara and her family and other pilgrims, at the end Sushant and Sara are married with the blessings of everyone in a beautiful Muslim-Hindu marriage as a new Kedarnath rises from the floods.

But instead, beautiful independent in love Sara loses her sister (the only person in her family who truly understands her), her mother, and the man she loves.  And is left with the horrible passive father.  Left to live her life in living death, no smiles and no flirtation and no colors any more.  Just listening to the radio as it plays songs that remind her of her lost past.

(“Lag Jaa Gale” is the song, of course)

 

I suppose there is a possible interpretation of this plot as less about a scared last minute shift to avoid having a Hindu Brahmin woman marry a Muslim man, but instead a lament for the way the world has failed.  Instead of this young couple being able to be together, the world destroys them.  Sara is left empty and colorless, all possible happiness and future is gone.  Not because of the floods, but because of the misunderstandings that surround them, that allow this tragedy to sweep them apart.  We are meant to end the film with this feeling of emptiness and wrongness, because the world is empty and wrong.

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19 thoughts on “Kedarnath Review (SPOILERS): Oh Good, the Old Brahmin Man Survived, He’s the MOST Important

  1. Very sad ending! Should have been a Tamil film!!

    There is a Telugu movie that showed love between Hindu brahmin girl and Muslim boy in a sensitive way. ‘Avakai Biryani’, made with no name stars failed due to very slow narration but has a pretty good love story. People who oppose it stand to benefit the most from their separation. Her evil muslim stalker and his evil hindu debtor. She cannot rebel because she is the primary breadwinner in the family. Thankfully her family eventually comes around and all ends well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, that is what I liked from this movie!!!! It showed how people use the excuse of an interreligious romance to get whatever they want from society. These mobs that spontaneously form, there’s usually someone in them that has a more personal motive.

      I just wish this film had been brave enough to actually let the couple stay together.

      On Sun, Dec 9, 2018 at 6:49 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. I suspected this was the ending and confirmed it by reading your post. But it’s even worse than I imagined if she has nothing to live for after the floods. That’s just depressing. Even Rose in Titanic got to have a relatively good life after the Titanic. Boo. I’m still looking forward to seeing it for Sara’s performance.

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    • Yeah, they went the route of “a good woman remaining faithful and having living death after she loses her lover” which is so BLECH. They didn’t even do something like her going to live with his widowed mother, or founding a school in his memory, or anything besides just passive acceptance and misery.

      On Sun, Dec 9, 2018 at 10:15 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • Yes I did! And also in Padman. Drives me CRAZY!!!!! And it’s a consistent thing in the recent movies. I am all nostalgic for the olden days when sometimes fathers were wrong and it was okay to just walk away from them.

      On Sun, Dec 9, 2018 at 12:11 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. Oh this breaks my heart. Why couldn’t they have ended happy? There was so much leeway to change the story around, I love your idea of the dad sacrificing. A filmi end would have been another helicopter comes by to save Mansoor in the nick of time, but not before he’s hurt badly enough to have his memory compromised and the movie could end with Mukku hearing that he was alive 3 years later…. with a Part 2 to come! 😉

    Their chemistry was sizzling. I loved how they looked at each other with such charm and intensity.

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    • I was really hoping that would be the ending when she plays the radio! That we would find out it was a song from him to her and have the reveal that he found his way back to her after surviving the floods.

      Heck, the movie was less than two hours long, they could have easily added on another half hour playing that out, showing the song playing on the radio dedicated her to him, he hears it in Delhi or somewhere where he landed up, starts to have flashes of remembering her, and finally runs back to her and it ends with a joyful embrace,

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  4. i hate fulthy hindu mentality….. hindus never do justice with religion……woh brahmin ko mar jana chahiye tha end me taki 1.32 billion cud have enjoyed the movie.

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  5. I just watched the movie feeling confused and googled for some reviews and I have to say I LOVE the way you say everything! You are on point! I really wish the producers are brave enough to move beyond the norm than to feed the usual ending so that they don’t get bashed and to feed to ego of the patriachal society. This is modern world,where respect is the highest virtue, why would God/Gods waste his time creating different people just so they can kill each other. Anyway thumbs up for speaking up your mind!!!

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    • Thank you for commenting! I am so glad you liked the review. I’ve got loads more in my archives, basically every new Hindi film since 2015, browse around!

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  6. I wanted to like this movie so badly. I’m target audience for this kind of tragic romances. I didn’t have high expectations, only thought it’s my kind of film. Unfortunately it was too short, too fast, too strange for me to enjoy. I liked separate parts but none of them completely e.g I loved the romance BUT maybe it was too fast. I loved the actors, but at the same time I didn’t buy Sushant as a poor porter (especially in the wedding song, he looks more like muscular guy from the city than poor guy from the village). Sara was very good in her debut but I found her repetitive in the first half.
    The same with the plot. At first I loved this “he was first my fiancè and now is yours” drama. It was something new, but after some time it was too much. And why they didn’t explain how it happened? The movie was so short, they could add a flashback to explain the situation. And how their father could allow something like this? It was sick. And I think it bothered me more than the fact that the useless father was saved.
    I grew up reading about polish history and it’s full of “yes, they died/ were defeated but they had the moral victory, and it’s more important”, so I kinda liked the ending.

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    • Yes! It is so sick! And the father is never really confronted about it. Sara yells at him, but his wife and other daughter just endure. And all of the town must have known what he did, and yet they all seem fine with it too. And fine with the fiance, who is equally sick to suggest the swap. Remember when it happens in Roja? Or in Aaina? There is shock and horror all around and the family talks it over and there is a lot of concern about it, and only extraordinary circumstances make it happen. And in this movie, it is treated as “well, he was their father, he could do whatever he wanted and no one will care”.

      Also, I took a Polish history class in college and it was the most frustrating thing. It’s all those moral victories, plus all these hundred of years of political theories like “well, this group thought an independent Poland should look like this, memorize their theory and the name of it and all the leaders. And then they never actually lived to have an independent Poland and their theory became unpopular and was replaced by this other theory by these other people. Which also never happened, but you should also memorize all the details about that one too”. My big take away was that the trains had to be made special to cross Poland because the two halves used two different track widths. Also, winged armor.

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      • I wish the movie explained why this guy decided to marry the other sister (besides being a creep), and why her father allowed it. Maybe it was showed but I didn’t see it? Sara’s father was completely usless and weak, but was it the reason he agreed? Or maybe the fiancè had some power over him?
        And I was asking myself if hindu wedding (north brahmin) has a part when boy and girl are asked if they agree? Like in nikah and christian weddings? Can a bride say : no I don’t like this rishta, durning wedding?

        Oh and I must mention Sushant’s mother. OMG so much drama!

        LOL I can’t agree more about Polish history. I liked history in school, but absolutely hated when I was forced to remember all those guys and organizations who fought (or talked) about Independence.

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        • I think they just had Sara comment at some point that the guy decided he likes her after she grew up to be prettier than her sister. And the guy did have some power over their father, he was the nephew of the head Brahmin or something like that. But it wasn’t that much power, her father could have still said “no” and just lived with discomfort at work. Now that I think about it, exactly what amount of power will we accept for a father to agree to this kind of situation? In this movie, it was almost no pressure at all! And in other movies, we have seen fathers risk death so their daughter can be happy. He was just worthless, that’s all.

          YES Sushant’s mother!!!!! Dina and I saw this together and both got the giggles from her very first appearance. She is just the most downtrodden, tired, abused looking mother actress I have ever seen! That poor woman!

          You know what Polish history feels like sometimes? My fanfics. “what if, instead of this thing that actually happened, this other thing had happened? In that case, this is the political philosophy and government structure I would propose”. And then some other guy says “No, in that case, I would propose a different structure”. And you spend allllllllll this time learning about the fanfic version of a government, and meanwhile in “reality” Poland doesn’t exist and everything that is happening is really from the Russian and Austrian histories.

          It’s kind of like “Indian” history, except India is trying a different thing and tying together all these various strands of history from different places into an awkward patchwork that they call pre-1947 “India”. I guess Irish history was kind of the same, I took that class too, lots of talk about revolutions that didn’t get anywhere. Although I also learned about Yeats and Maud Gonne, taht was fun.

          On Thu, Feb 21, 2019 at 10:41 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • The actress who plays Sushant’s mother was in Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana and she played evil mother in law. I hated her so much in Shaadi..so when I saw her here I said: this won’t be typical good mom for sure, but I didn’t expect she will cover herself with petrol to blackmail her son!

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