Snow-capped mountains surround the pilgrimage town of Kedarnath in Uttarakhand. In the pious valley unfolds an old-fashioned story about forbidden love.

The year is 2013 and Mandakini (Sara Ali Khan), the daughter of a Hindu priest (Nitish Bharadwaj), falls in love with Mansoor (Sushant Singh Rajput), a good humoured porter who ferries devotees up the steep climb to the temple.

Mansoor covers the 14-kilometre trek from Gauri Kund to Kedarnath multiple times a day, devoting himself to the care of the pilgrims.

The opening scene, as Rajput straps a seat to his back and carries a lady up to the temple, is one of the more impressive sequences in director Abhishek Kapoor’s disaster film.

The year is significant because flash floods devastated Uttarakhand in 2013. More than 4000 people died and thousands were reported missing. Indiscriminate development and disregard for the environment is cited as one of the reasons for the terrible devastation.

But in ‘Kedarnath’, opposition to Mansoor and Mandakini’s inter-faith love is the dominant theme. The first 40 minutes meander along illustrating how the over-smart, defiant and determined Mandakini wins over the modest Mansoor.

At home, Mukku’s (Mandakini’s nickname) father is incensed at his daughter’s indiscretion. Her fiance (Nishant Dahiya) gathers his thugs to beat up Mansoor and threatens the porter community with expulsion. This one love affair is all it takes to disrupt a long-established secular society.

The drama picks up in the second hour of this 120-minute film. As ominous dark clouds gather and the incessant rain gains momentum, Hitesh Sonik’s music underscores impending doom. Tushar Kanti Ray’s cinematography and Chandan Arora’s editing are called up to build the tension. Of Amit Trivedi’s songs, ‘Namo namo’ is the only memorable one.

As torrents of water rush down, destroying everything that gets in the way, you recall the horror of 2013. Although the special effects are uneven (the temple town was rebuilt in a vast tank on a film set in Mumbai and later flooded for those particular scenes), the tragedy is intense.

Khan shines in these later scenes, shedding the earlier self-consciousness to throw it all into the physically challenging finale. Rajput is natural as the compassionate Mansoor, though at times he seems to be searching for the soul of his character, which could have been another casualty of a confused script.

Fortunately for Kapoor, the performances manage to keep things afloat, taking the emotions to a crescendo matching nature’s wrath.

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