Movie Review - Kalank

Eclipsed by visual wizardry

A Hindu-Muslim love story set against the backof Partition isn’t exactly a new subject. But when Dharma production decides to tell the story you can only expect a designer treatment and at best a tale with a twist.

Eclipsed by visual wizardry

A still from Kalank

Nonika Singh

A Hindu-Muslim love story set against the backdrop of Partition isn’t exactly a new subject. But when Dharma production decides to tell the story you can only expect a designer treatment and at best a tale with a twist. Opulent sets and fashionable clothes (one makes a mental note of Alia’s sartorial choices) greet you on one end. On the other there is a crisscross of emotional ties. 

With emotions at its core Kalank begins on note of intrigue. There is a dying woman Satya (Sonakshi Sinha) who wants Roop (Alia Bhatt) to take her place in her marital household. Even though a reluctant husband Dev Chowdhry (Aditya Roy Kapoor) lurks by. Then there is Zafar (Varun Dhawan) who wears his illegitimacy like a chip on his shoulder. Whose son he is, is evident from the word go. Only the narrative takes us on a ride where we pretend to not know the obvious as the film pretends to be more than it is. 

The premise as such is not bad; love seen from different facets of the prism including outside the sacred bonds of marriage. With so many actors on board there has to be justification for each one’s presence in the multi-starrer. To some extent they, except Sonaskhi, find enough meat to flesh out their parts. Even special appearances like that of Sanjay Dutt are duly noticed and felt.

His co-star of erstwhile Madhuri Dixit as Begum Bahar with whom he reunites on screen after a long time makes an impact. Angst ridden Zafar or fresh and pretty Roop or idealist Dev; Varun and Alia once again paired together are a major draw. If Aditya acts his part with conviction, Kunal Khemmu as rabble-rouser Abdul is impressive till he turns truly demonic. The lives of all are intertwined and get further entangled - rishton ki qaid mein girftar.  

Indeed, the recipe for an emotional drama is peppered with the several ingredients. Love, deceit and revenge run through the leitmotif, as the arc oscillates from 1946 to 1956. 

Some details are historic like Heera Mandi, the hub of tawaif culture in Hoshanabad near Lahore. More, however, is unwarranted. A bull fight, thrown in just so Varun Dhawan’s chiselled body can be showcased further more. An item song by Kirti Sanon is fitted in a film that already has too many songs. The scene involving the unexpected bonhomie between Zafar and Dev comes from nowhere. The gondola ride and the pyrotechnics which manifest during enactment of Ramleela certainly do not belong to the 1940s. 

Sure in the climax the horror of Partition and communal tension does get to you.

Clearly the director seems to be trying too hard to make it more than just another entertainer. To be fair, despite 168 minutes runtime, he keeps you invested in his characters.

There is some tenderness too between Dev and Satya. But real climatic moments such as when Zafar meets his father or when the father seeks forgiveness from his son lack punch. And you yearn for films of yore where such dramatic playoffs would be the highpoint; worth remembering long after the movie. Varman too tries to capture the old world feel of love and romance, but manages to take you there only in bits and parts. Some encounters appear forced.

Many a spectacle, al la Bhansali, seems not only borrowed but orchestrated. A clash of sensibilities is visible; more contemporary than period. The distraction that visuals offer stops you from fully submitting to the world which is no more. Still the emotional pitch of the film and performances make it worth a watch. Unblemished, this Kalank certainly isn’t, but has enough spots that demand your attention.


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