Kedarnath is the “Titanic” of Bollywood #237

The movie Kedarnath is a romantic drama built on the premise of flash flood in Uttarakhand in 2013.

Uttarakhand Flood in 2013

In 2013, on June 16th and 17th, Kedarnath (the Shiva temple built in the 8th century AD in Uttarakhand, India) witnessed one of the most devastating flash floods in history. Unusually heavy rain caused the Chorabari glacier to melt and Mandakini river to erupt, claiming thousands of lives in Uttarakhand. The overflowing river brought huge rocks down from the hills and washed away many multi-storied buildings, markets, and everything else in the valley. Kedarnath is prone to natural disasters; intensive mining, construction, and mismanaged tourism activities have destabilized its already fragile ecosystem.

Kedarnath is located in a hilly region. Pilgrims must trek 15-16 kilometers or hire a porter to reach the Kedarnath temple. The porters have mules and horses, and sometimes they carry pilgrims on their backs. The roads are steep and rocky… This Porter community sustains itself due to the large number of devotees who come every year to visit Lord Shiva at the Kedarnath temple.

Kedarnath(2018) : The Plot

Mansur, a young porter (called “Pitthu” in the local language), had a customer: an old lady. She was accompanied by her son and daughter-in-law. Mansur’s mule carried their luggage while he carried the elderly woman on his back to Kedarnath temple.

The old lady started complaining because Mansur wasn’t Hindu. But with a charming smile, he took her on his back and began trekking along roads of rock that were steep but beautiful.

The porters go up and down this road several times a day, carrying heavy loads on their backs. It’s an extremely difficult job, yet they do it with a smile. The old lady was afraid of the steepness, so Mansur reassured her by shouting “Glory to Lord Shiva!” To be honest, I don’t know if the porters in Kedarnath actually do that or not—regardless of their religious beliefs. But after visiting some temples in India, I understand how deeply local communities feel connected to them. Pilgrims become the means of livelihood for thousands of people over generations and this creates a unique sentiment towards these places.

I felt the same way when I read Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam’s autobiography. He grew up in Rameswaram and was friends with the son of the head priest of the temple there. His writing made it clear that the temple was an integral part of his childhood.

Mansur sneaked into his mother’s grocery store and got laddoos for the lady. His mom then scolded him: “Bring some money home too! Don’t spend all your earnings on customers!” Finally, Mansur dropped off his customer at the temple gate, took a selfie with them, rang the bell of the temple, and left.

Mansur’s dropping his customers right at the gate of the temple wasn’t taken well by some people. He rang the temple bell as a token of gratitude to Lord Shiva for bringing another customer to him. Although Mansur was Muslim, his devotion to Lord Shiva was no less than any Hindu’s. The pandits (priest community), porters and other locals met together to discuss bringing even more visitors to Kedarnath. Some people in priest families saw this as an opportunity to get rich, but they presented the proposal as beneficial for all. Mansur stood up and opposed it: over-commercializing a temple is a disgrace to God himself, and Kedarnath’s already fragile ecosystem may be destroyed from the extra load.

Kullu, the nephew of the head priest, was angry at Mansur for his genuine concern. He cut him off saying, “You wouldn’t understand the devotion” (as you’re a Muslim). “We will help more people to visit Shiv ji and that would help everyone.” It was immature of him to bring up religion. Quickly, Mansur silenced everyone by explaining why religion wasn’t an appropriate argument here. For generations they have served devotees, carried them on their backs and sung Lord Shiva’s glory loudly—how could they have any less devotion to the Lord?

Mandanini (Mukku), the younger daughter of one of the priests, had a different taste. She watched cricket matches and fiercely rebuked the opposition with bad words! When her father switched off their TV, Mukku managed to find a seat in front of another set at a small shop, where all the guys were enjoying the match. There she met Mansur. In Rambara, a small place, Mukku and Mansur’s paths crossed often. Mansur’s simplicity and charm captivated Mukku; she often hired his ride to go to nearby places as an excuse to befriend him.

Mansur was reserved in the first few days, doing his job professionally. But Mukku wasn’t one to give up easily; she was a chatterbox and began talking with the mule instead! As days went by, they grew closer. Their daily meetings became mandatory for them both. Though not outspoken, Mansur eagerly awaited Mukku each day…

Mukku was engaged to Kullu, the nephew of the head priest. She wasn’t interested in him before meeting Mansur. When Brinda, Mukku’s elder sister, heard about Mansur, she feared their inter-faith relationship would end.

Pandits, the highest caste in Hindu, do not even marry people from other castes in the same religion- forget about considering people of other faith!

Brinda warned Mansur to stay away from her sister, as their father would never approve of their relationship. Mansur was shattered and cried piteously, accepting this to be his destiny. He started ignoring Mukku and denied giving her a ride. Mukku couldn’t bear his sudden silence; she followed him everywhere and sat at the gate of his house in the rain. Mansur knew how stubborn Mukku was—drenched to the bone, shivering uncontrollably but determined. In high fever she lost her senses, so Mansur couldn’t help bringing her home and covering her with a blanket.

Kullu, her fiancé was furious after learning this and informed Mukku’s father. They all came to Mansur’s house… For personal revenge, Kullu wanted to blame all the Muslim porters living there. Mukku was taken home, and her father performed a ritual of penance on her. Mukku stayed calm and followed her father’s words. But when he said she could never be with Mansur, even if the world fell apart, she replied: “Then I would pray day and night for that apocalypse…” The next day, Mukku was married off to Kullu; immediately afterwards, she slit her wrist. Meanwhile, Kullu went in pursuit of Mansur.

It was raining heavily and everyone sought shelter. In a sudden cloud burst, the flood washed away everything. Mansur sent his mom to safety and stayed back to help others. He couldn’t leave without finding Mukku. He searched everywhere, her house had been destroyed in the flood and no one was there… Finally he found her at Kedarnath temple where hundreds of people took refuge. In an instant, everything was underwater, but Mansur managed to grab her hand.

When the water rushed down, everyone had to evacuate quickly. They spotted a rescue helicopter and Mansur assisted everyone in climbing the rope. When only two people remained, the chopper began showing signs of overload and Mansur chose to stay behind. He let the other man go as his child was sobbing for him inside the aircraft. In an instant, the ground where he stood crumbled and river Mandakini swept him away…

Mandakini was Mukku’s real name. On that night of terror, Mansur united with the other Mandakini—the devastating one! Everything was destroyed but the main temple remained in place. The government rebuilt the area with more sustainable architecture. Mukku and her father returned home; radio played Mansur’s favorite song: “Lag ja gale” (Embrace me).

Why Kedarnath reminds me of Hollywood Blockbluster Titanic?

I would not say Kedarnath did as great as Titanic on the box-office. Yet I find some good similarities-

Both have plots built around a disastrous incident. Titanic focuses on the passengers of the ship and its glorifying look, while Kedarnath showcases the cultural atmosphere around Lord Shiva’s temple. In Titanic, Rose and Jack are madly in love but their relationship isn’t approved by others; Rose has an evil fiancé. Similarly, Mukku and Mansur are madly in love despite coming from different faiths; Mukku too has an evil fiancé—oh I hate that guy so much!

I’ve watched Titanic many times—I still can’t believe those scenes were created with special effects! The VFX team of Kedarnath did a commendable job for sure; all the scenes depicting the severity of the disaster looked as real as news clips from when it happened in 2013.

My final thoughts on the movie-

Kedarnath is Sara Ali Khan’s debut movie. The movie is decent, and its natural beauty will soothe your eyes. It hints at the over-commercialization of such a delicate place; unplanned constructions and mining have made it more vulnerable to natural disasters. I don’t think it promotes or defames inter-faith relations – many people boycotted it for the wrong reasons. Yes, it has drama to make an emotional impact on the audience, better than many over-the-top romantic stories!

Mukku is like any other teeange girl.

Mansur is so amazing he feels too good to be true! Sushant has done a great job portraying him. His character has a shyness and grace that makes him stand out from other Bollywood heroes. We’re used to seeing heroes who are overly outspoken, stalking the heroine everywhere, proposing in dramatic ways, and promising anything and everything! Mansur’s innocence and generosity won Mukku’s heart without effort. For someone with such a pure soul, it was natural for him to sacrifice his life happily in order to save others.

I couldn’t bear to watch Mansur’s death, it was reminding me of Sushant’s sudden and unexpected death in June, 2020.

After watching the movie, I watched several interviews of real-life survivors of the flash flood. The movie accurately depicted the temple scene. When the water rose alarmingly high–200 to 300 people took shelter inside Kedarnath temple–suddenly, it flooded in and reached up to 7 feet or so before receding in 7-10 seconds, leaving people in deep, dark mud. Survivors told how quickly they had to get out of the temple and search for a safer place; those who stayed behind drowned.

Overall, Kedarnath is a good movie. Most of its songs are excellent. I’ve listened to “Quafirana” and “Jaan Nisaar” over 100 times and still can’t get enough of them.. I’d rate Kedarnath(2018) 7.5 out of 10.

“Kai Po Che” (2013) was Sushant’s first film. He also starred in Shuddh Desi Romance(2013), PK(2014), Detective Byomkesh Bakshy(2015), M. S. Dhoni the untold story(2016)Raabta, Drive, Sonchiriya, Chhichhore (2019) and Dil Bechara(2020). Dil Bechara is Sushant’s last film that released after his death.

Post Author: Molten Cookie Dough

A typical Pisces person.

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