Banners: Dharma Productions, Nadiadwala Grandson Entertainment, Fox Star Studios
Producers: Karan Johar, Sajid Nadiadwala, Hiroo Yash Johar, Apoorva Mehta
Director: Abhishek Varman
Cast: Varun Dhawan, Alia Bhatt, Sanjay Dutt, Aditya Roy Kapur, Sonakshi Sinha, Madhuri Dixit-Nene, Kunal Kemmu, Kiara Advani, Hiten Tejwani, Achint Kaur
Writers: Abhishek Varman (Screenplay), Shibani Bathija (Story), Hussain Dalal (Dialogues)
Magnum opuses don’t come often and when they do, expectations are sky high. And since Abhishek Varman’s Kalank is backed by the production houses of Karan Johar and Sajid Nadiadwala, there was even more expected of this film. Thankfully for the makers, the movie checks all the boxes, from the superstar ensemble cast to music and, of course, the massive production values. The only drawback is that the filmmakers seem to have got carried away while establishing each character, given the superstar cast that the film boasts. Apart from that, Kalank is a smooth ride.
The story begins with Roop entering the family of the esteemed Chaudharys as the second wife of Dev even though his first wife, Satya, is still alive. Unhappy with this union, Roop comforts herself with the singing lessons she gets from the famous Madam of Hira Mandi, Bahaar Begum. While on these trips to Hira Mandi, Roop connects with local bad boy, Zafar, and starts to fall in love with him even though Zafar has his own reasons for befriending her.
Dev tries to avoid his second wife but since they work together, they begin to form a reluctant bond. With this love entanglement intensifying, along with certain revelations about Bahaar Begum and the Chaudhary khandaan and the turmoil caused by the growing tensions of 1947 Partition, the story has an interesting crux as the film makes it way to a heart-wrenching climax.
The story, which was conceived by Yash Johar more than 15 years ago, has its heart and soul in the right place. The gut-wrenching climax tugs at your heartstrings and the screenplay by Varman is engaging. The makers use Partition as the crux and spin a narrative of intricate relationships around it. Here, no character is linear. Each one has complex layers, which makes them grey and very human. That’s why you do not question their choices and instead empathise with them.
The dialogue penned by Hussain Dalal includes some philosophical lines, which lends the film a certain charm. The dialogue is definitely an asset of Kalank. Even though the first half of the film seems a tad long, you are glued to the screen from the interval till the last frame.
Production designer Amrita Mahal Nakai deserves a special mention for creating the mise-en-scène with aplomb – the palatial mansion of the Chaudharys, Bahaar Begum’s opulent brothel and the forbidden Hira Mandi, a quaint district in Lahore. Cinematography by veteran DoP Binod Pradhan is top notch. He diligently captures the grandeur, gloss and glam of life in 1940s Husnabad. The busy Hira Mandi, which is a hub of courtesans and blacksmiths, looks like a painting. The song, Ghar more pardesiya, which projects a carnival, is beautifully framed and instantly draws you into that world.
In one scene, Roop is talking about the significance of the colour red and how it stands as a symbol of love and destruction. Hence, the use of red looms over this tale of star-crossed lovers. Gorgeous costumes and the use of reddish shades of light augment the emotionally intense drama smeared with love, hate and passion.
Music is one of the strongest links in the film. The soulful melodies of Ghar more pardesiya and the Kalank title track touch a chord while colourful numbers like First class and Aira gaira add to the festivity to this larger-than-life experience. The songs do not disrupt the flow of the narrative and most of them stay with you.
This tale of tragedy is a visual treat. Some may call it poetry in motion or a string of oil paintings woven together, but rest assured you are in for a cinematic delight.
All the names attached to the central cast of this film are strong performers. Varun Dhawan attempts the bad boy avatar. With his intense confrontational scenes coupled with several shirtless ones, the actor is absorbed in his character beautifully. Alia Bhatt’s performance as the fearless yet vulnerable Roop is effortless, as usual. She brings to life the angst that the young girl faces. Sanjay Dutt is commanding in his presence as the Chaudhary family patriarch. His hold over his skill is commendable.
While Madhuri Dixit-Nene’s Bahaar Begum has many shades, there are moments when the actress is not able to bring them out on screen. Aditya Roy Kapur portrays the character of a reticent Dev with aplomb. Sonakshi Sinha’s Satya embodies grit. She portrays the emotion felt silently by Satya and manages to show the torment she feels. Kunal Kemmu supports the film and the sub-plot of Partition perfectly. Kiara Advani’s special appearance is average. Supporting actors Hiten Tejwani and Achint Kaur are decent.
Verdict: Despite a few flaws and a slow first-half, the last 45 minutes of the film make Kalank a must watch. Hit!