A Five-Star Meal That Lacks Salt
A classic example of what happens when Yuzvendra Chahal starts bowling the Lasith Malinga way, ‘Kalank’ establishes that the makers had all plans to adopt the Bhansali cinematic universe. But what we get is an 80s styled potboiler set against the tragic backdrop of the Partition.
Set in Husnabad, Lahore in 1946, Satya (Sonakshi Sinha) is ailing from cancer and she approaches Roop (Alia Bhatt) to accept a marriage of convenience with her husband Dev (Aditya Roy Kapoor). Dev is clear that the marriage will uphold respect but there is no room for love. He doesn’t share a great equation either with his father Balraj Chaudhary (Sanjay Dutt). The lack of entity and acceptance sets Roop on a pursuit of love and freedom, a dangerous choice which holds fatal consequences. Her search lands her in the courtyard of Bahaar Begum (Madhuri Dixit), a once famous dancer. She eventually runs into the fierce blacksmith Zafar (Varun Dhawan), an orphan with a secret.
The story, penned by director Abhishek Varman and Shibani Bhatija, wants to tell a lot but can’t exactly figure out where to fit what. The shoddy screenplay includes so many scenes that could have been easily omitted. I couldn’t exactly understand the purpose of the Gladiator-styled bullfight scene featuring Varun, which actually looks like a poorly picturized rodeo ride from an amusement park, given the VFX. Even an introductory scene between two key characters is misplaced to accommodate a special dance number. The characters are not materialized with conviction. Their conflicts are contrived and the plot twists seemed predictable. Historical, geographical and political accuracy cannot even be thought about over here. The dialogues by Hussain Dalal make an earnest attempt to invoke genuine feeling but the words ‘Mohabbat’, ‘Ishq’ and many of their kind are rattled off constantly. Visually, the film on account of the production design by Amrita Mahal Nakai, the costumes by Manish Malhotra and Maxima Basu Golani and the lenses of Binod Pradhan, is a spectacle. A scene where Roop and Zafar meet for the first time against the backdrop of an ongoing Ravan-dehan is spectacular. But the purpose of great visuals fades away post the first half.
Speaking of the performances, the film rests completely on Varun’s shoulders and the actor lives the part. As the long suffering Zafar, Varun emotes pain and resentment through his kohl-rimmed eyes. Alia is earnest though she looks quite miscast for the role. It’s as if the makers are trying to cash in on the popular perception of her to be able to pull off any and every role. I actually enjoyed watching Sonakshi more. Never mind that in comparison, her role is a mere cameo and is likely to remind you of her from ‘Lootera’. But Sona proves that she is a perfect fit for period films. Madhuri’s role is evidently reflective of her stint in ‘Devdas’ but she adds her grace and grit to the part. How she captivates one’s attention even after being in the business for more than three decades is fascinating. Aditya returns to the screen after a sabbatical of two years and the actor looks ready to impress. In ‘Kalank’, the promise shows. Dutt’s character is the singularly weakest link. Kunal Khemu as Zafar’s politically connected friend Abdul is a treat to watch.
Barring a few great songs by Pritam and breath-taking visuals, ‘Kalank’ doesn’t even qualify to be a one-time watch.