Kalank has been highly anticipated ever since the film’s announcement last year.
Directed by Abhishek Varman, this is Dharma Productions’ and Sajid Nadiadwala’s magnum-opus with a dream cast.
Furthermore, it also reunites Sanjay Dutt and Madhuri Dixit on celluloid after a gap of just over two decades.
The movie is an epic romantic drama of six enigmatic, esoteric and wistful characters entangled in search of love but separated by the dichotomy between the two worlds of Husnabad, a town in North India.
The elite, opulent and solemn world of the Chaudhry family clashes with the wild, mysterious and musical underbelly of the town, Hira Mandi.
This clash occurs when Roop Chaudhry (Alia Bhatt) encounters Zafar (Varun Dhawan), a daredevil blacksmith from the Hira Mandi.
This rendezvous unleashes deep-buried truths, secrets of betrayal and affairs that threaten to bring both worlds crashing down.
Set in 1945, in Pre-Independent India, the film is the story of a vivid and ethereal world, lost when the fire of Partition engulfs the city and the country.
It is the story of the shades of Reds in their lives as they yearn for hues of love while Husnabad gets soaked in the reds of violence and revenge.
High Production Value
To begin with, the movie does not fail to live up to the opulence we saw in the first glimpses.
The exuberant/palatial sets, stunning Manish Malhotra costumes and crisp cinematography are visually appealing.
Some dialogues are quite effective. Dialogues like ‘Kuch rishtey karzon ki tarah hote hai… Unhe nibhana Nahin, chukana padta hai’; ‘Najayaz Mohabbat ka anjaam aksar tabaahi Hota Hai’ is poetic and reflect the film’s narrative.
Pritam’s music is hummable. The title song, ‘Ghar More Pardesiya’, ‘Tabah Ho Gaye’ and ‘Aira Gaira’ has already become familiar with the public.
On top of that, the background score by Sanchit and Ankit Balhara increases the dramatic impact and helps the movie’s ambience.
Plus, there are a few memorable moments. One of the key highlights is when Madhuri Dixit and Sanjay Dutt finally come face to face. This scene is very effective and worth the wait.
However, these are the few, minimal of the positive aspects.
The Narrative Style
The story seems to be a hybrid of Trishul, 1947 Earth and Shauna Singh Baldwin’s novel What The Body Remembers, with a Bhansali influence somewhere along the line.
We have seen countless films based on the pre-partition era in India and this doesn’t offer anything new.
It seems pointless in showcasing a Hindu-Muslim love story because it does nothing but add salt into old wounds.
We need to move away from such stories as there is a lot more to history than that conflict and such stories have been portrayed enough in Bollywood.
The narrative structure is rough. It begins in the pre-independence era and in the middle of the film it shows Roop talking with a journalist about her life.
It would’ve been better if it showed the entire story through this conversation with Roop and the reporter from the beginning.
This would’ve made the narrative style consistent and relevant.
There also seems to be an issue with the editing, which makes the film jumbled and less cohesive.
Subsequently, the screenplay is weak and tighter writing could’ve made the movie much more intriguing and appealing.
Also, it must be added that the VFX and use of green screen become very apparent during the bullfighting sequences and climax scene (which itself is cliched and drags).
Given that Kalank is quite a highly anticipated film made on a big budget, it’s quite concerning that attention has not been given to the special effects
Representation of Female Characters
The characterisations of the movie seem problematic.
Zafar is a blacksmith and yet he dances like a pro and even fights a bull. There is no consistency in the characters.
Even Roop’s character just seems out of place. It’s almost like the writers have tried to make her a ‘Leela’ (from Ram-Leela) but really speaking, turns out to be a weakling who gets lured by a rogue Casanova.
Another female character Satya (Sonakshi Sinha) is ailing from cancer and urges Roop to marry journalist Dev Chaudhary (Aditya Roy Kapur).
This story does not respect the status of women in society and is made to be sacrificial and vulnerable in the guise of ‘strong’.
Hindi cinema has progressed so much and we are currently in his phase where gender equality, Kalank reminds us of the regressive Bollywood that used to exist.
Such representations should not be depicted in Indian movies today.
With such problematic and questionable writing, the actors do not have much scope but they nonetheless give it their best shot.
Alia Bhatt is good, but somehow this role seems out of place for her – which is again due to the writing of the character.
She looks gorgeous as Roop but it just isn’t her style, which makes one wonder why she did the film in the first place… Or was it her choice at all?
Varun Dhawan is his usual best as Zafar. We’ve seen a dark side to him as an actor in films like Badlapur and he once again exhibits this shade.
The show-stealers, however, are Aditya Roy Kapur and Sonakshi Sinha. Both are more secondary characters but have a solid screen-presence and are impressive.
Sonakshi and Aditya deserve a lot more credit as actors.
Madhuri Dixit is ethereal as the courtesan Bahaar Begum. The best thing is that she does not emulate Chandramukhi from Devdas. She adds a unique sense of grace to the character.
Sanjay Dutt is okay in his special appearance. There is not much importance given to his role in comparison to the others.
Another solid actor is Kunal Kemmu who plays Abdul, the leader of a Muslim political party. Kunal is first-rate in his role.
Hiten Tejwani and Achint Kaur are okay in their respective parts.
Unfortunately, these performances try to help the film but they cannot save the movie from nosediving.
On the whole, Kalank is a damp squib and an underwhelming watch.
Given the film’s big budget and brilliant talent lineup, it could’ve offered so much more.
However, the weak writing, poor editing and regressive storyline bring the film down.
This amongst the Bollywood films which actually lives up to the title.