Movie Review: ‘Shiddat’ (Hotstar)

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People nowadays have forgotten how to love. The profound love we grow up hearing stories about, the romance we see in old movies, the yearning we hum to in qawwali and ghazals. We dream, we fantasize about it, but no one is actually willing to deal with the impracticality of it all. ‘Shiddat’ makes you think: if you finally find that deep, intense, all-consuming love you’re looking for – what will you even do with it?

Gautam (Mohit Raina) and Ira (Diana Penty) have that kind of love – fated, inevitable, uncontainable by time and space. It inspires Jaggi (Sunny Kaushal) to not settle for less than an eternal romance like theirs. And one day, when he bumps into Kartika (Radhika Madan), Jaggi feels it too – the intense urge to never let her go. He doesn’t fight this feeling, he never even questions it, causing a lot of his behavior to be creepy, intrusive and clingy. And for some reason, Kartika doesn’t repel either. There is something spiritual between the two that binds them together, beyond logic and judgement, and they know it too. But smart, rational, soon-to-be-married Kartika realizes how silly this all is and leaves for London to plan her wedding. Jaggi though, becomes our modern day Mahiwal (or perhaps technically Sohni) and decides to illegally cross any river and sea that comes in the way of him and his beloved.

‘Shiddat’ poses an interesting question: How are you expected to listen to reason when all your senses are clouded by the one you love? Objectively, Jaggi as a character should be off-putting. He goes too far, he says too much, it’s all strange and sometimes unwelcome. But both Sunny Kaushal and director Kunal Deshmukh have managed to make him intense without seeming creepy. It is such tricky terrain to navigate. His behaviour is never justified, but the way it is framed is quite unusual for a modern Bollywood romance. Jaggi isn’t trying to win Kartika, he’s just trying to give her all these emotions she has suddenly taken over.

And when, on the other hand, you’re approached by such intensity – how are you expected to react reasonably? Kartika is stuck in this limbo between her head and her heart. Radhika Madan is so good at going from completely cool to an overwhelmed mess. The way she depicts the cracks in Kartika’s façade – through fleeting looks and nervous hands – is stunning.

Then there’s the eventual moment of clarity, where Gautam and Ira are. Once the fog lifts, you struggle to find yourself again as an individual separate from your beloved, a you that is only yourself and no one else. So do you fight to win back your individuality? Or do you consciously give in to this bond, trusting the instinctual love you once felt so intensely? This is where ‘Shiddat’ falls short. But in their defense, it is a tough one to answer.

 

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