Kalank movie review: Set in pre-independent India in 1945, ‘Kalank‘ is the tale of a beautiful and ethereal realm that perished when the city and nation were shattered by Partition. It’s about the hues of love as they yearn for hues of violence amid Husnabad being bathed in crimson blood and hatred.
Kalank is a huge cast of characters, all interacting in intricate ways. There’s pre-Partition hatred between Hindus and Muslims in fictitious Husnabad near Lahore; illegitimate sons, dutiful daughters, tawaaifs and gaana-bajaana; incurable illnesses and lovelorn wives; all wrapped up in love and betrayal.
It’s the type of packed multi-star cast film that was made to attract a devout fan base in the ’70s. The use of magnificent song-and-dances, including mujras and religious tyohars celebrations, as well as mohabbat and pyaar ka izhaar between Hindu and Muslim characters, reminds you of the popular Muslim socials from back then.
Kalank is brimming with celebrities of all sizes: After years, Sanjay Dutt and Madhuri Dixit reunite. Varun Dhawan, Alia Bhatt, Sonakshi Sinha, Aditya Roy Kapur, Kunal Kemmu are also there: That’s a lot of people to keep tabs on in a film with such a huge scope and ambition.
If everything had worked out as it was meant to, this would have been a fantastic throwback to the days when Hindi cinema produced films with a sense of rootedness, characters were developed, and the plot was lifted by the presence of stars.
Unfortunately, the promise Kalank makes is soon lost in its excessive length, which you realize quite quickly after it begins. The pace slows down so frequently that you are left admiring the period architecture from the 1944-45-46 decades, as well as other lush locations in the film. And then there’s also the lack of tension: a motion picture this big should have enough instruments to increase drama and keep it consistent with itself.
You cling to every scrap of time you have. Varun Dhawan as a harami offspring of a respectable father and not-so-respectable mother, all bare torso agleam while fighting bogus bullies with swords, is a wonderful match for his part. Alia and Madhuri, both flowing and bejeweled, capture our attention in several of their conversations. The always dependable Kemmu, when he appears.
The dialogue in the film is dripping with the kind of talk we used to hear in yesteryear cinema: “There’s no such thing as a perfect marriage,” says one character; “They live in an area called peace but there is conflict all around them,” says another; and so on. But, except for Dhawan and Kemmu, who chew their lines with relish, even between Dutt and Dixit’s seasoned team, the dialogues feel mouthed rather than felt. Those two actors who play characters connected by history should have been seething on screen (remember them in Khalnayak?): they come off awkward and cold. The movie itself also comes off that way.
We see outbursts of violence between Hindus and Muslims, the rise of the Muslim League and Jinnah, as well as the demand for two religious nations. There are early indications that both groups are equally culpable for losing their bearings, but the climactic portrayal of skull cap-wearing, kohl-eyed, sword-waggling, bloodthirsty Muslims chasing after innocent people distorts the narrative.
There’s enough and more here, narratively, for a slew of movies. Despite Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt’s histrionics (the latter seeming to belong in that period), Dixit’s wonderful dancing skills (nobody can touch her when it comes to elegance when she is on the floor) , and Kalank’s fantastic dancing abilities (nobody can touch her when it comes to grace while she is on the floor), Kalank doesn’t really take off the screen. It appears to be a vast stage, stately and ponderous, with no impact; the ensemble is costumed and fragranced, but they are mostly lifeless, sparking only in small bursts. Two-thirds into the movie, as one character puts it, you kissa yahin nipat jaata.
Now playing on Netflix or CinemaHD.
Directed by: Abhishek Varman
Aditya Roy Kapur
Release date:17 April 2019
Running time: 166 minutes
Movie Rating: 1.7/5