“Barbaad ho jaogi..
Dard ke alawa kuch nahi de sakta main.”
These lines said by Zafar (Varun) in this romantic drama are probably what wanted to say to the audience watching it, which I realized post sitting through its exhausting runtime, with a perpetually disappointed face.
Set in pre – partition era of late 1940s, Kalank welcomes you to the ‘Dharmatic’ world of grandeur led by Abhishek Varman, and before you know it, it is evident that everything about this world is highly ‘Bhansalisque’. The dialogues (by Hussain Dalal) adhere to being confusingly metaphoric and at times, are let down by their own weight; especially the ones between the central lovers Roop (Alia) and Zafar (Varun). Is this the way how people conversed then? But then who on the lavish set there would care for this authenticity, when visuals are your prime focus. In this regard, this stretched drama is a delight to the eyes, as we see even the poorest of (as usual) stereotypical Muslims run in color coordinated Blue kurtas, during a partition violence sequence. This magnanimous plasticity sans authenticity is served to us in Kalank in the name of ‘vision’, whether one may like or dislike it : I sadly had to go with the latter opinion.
If you choose to see it for actors other than Varun, Alia, or Madhuri – you’ll be disappointed by the minimal time and one – note characters they’re given to portray. So talking of the central leads first, Roop (Alia) in Kalank is introduced to us in some Rajputana land, where the movie stays for only her intro sequences, so that we could witness her running bare – footed on the sand dunes in all her glory : what reminiscence of Aishwarya from ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’! She strives to look (successful here!) and act her part with full conviction, but dwelling in a period so dramatic is certainly not her forte.
Complementing her for most part is Zafar (Varun) : a full – time blacksmith and part – time ‘Mujra viewer’ in ‘Hira Mandi’, with some commendable forging and flirting skills. Just like our female lead, he too is introduced with a fledged song. I know that song (just like most aspects) feels detached from that era, but watching him dance to Arijit’s voice was a high point for me. Doing most of the heavylifting, considering both the physique and screentime of his character, his expressions oscillate between zoned – out and overacting. Nothing can be worse than the (out of nowhere) sequence feat. him fighting a (terribly CGId) bull. It wasn’t an exemplary takeaway for me, as their crackling chemistry had to emerge as a savior to their individual acts. Them meeting amidst the backdrop of Dussehra during ‘Ghar More Pardesiya’ song is one of the heartening moments of the movie.
Becoming the reason for Roop’s marriage to Dev (and thereafter, her meeting and love with Zafar) here is Satya, portrayed beautifully by Sonakshi. Easily my favorite act of the lot, that spark in her eyes devoid of hope is surreal to witness. Though having a brief role to my dismay, she effortlessly depicts and justifies the (stupid) motives of her part. Her last frame in the movie, with Aditya Roy, is perfectly captured : calm though melancholic – just like her part.
Though Dev (Aditya Roy) has little to offer to both his wives and the movie, in his rather insignificant part about eventually contributing to the leads’ love, I found the actor apt in his role. Performing well as required, he even gets an alcohol sequence to display his typical acting skills.
The rather “badnaam” Queen of the central location of drama is ‘Bahaar Begum’ (Madhuri), performed naturally by the epitome of grace. Living in a brothel with its own share of grandeur, she shines in her part, uttering all those heavy dialogues with her usual unique style. One has to believe her when she convincingly says – “Kal aaiyega, filhaal iss guftugu se thak gaye hain hum“. Give her a bizarre way to sing (in the melodious voice of Shreya Ghoshal) on the terrace during night, that somehow can be heard by Roop from hundreds of meters away (yes, this is true!), or an awkward choreography (read : ‘Tabaah ho gaye’ sequence) to showcase her talent – she does it gloriously.
To balance her grace and charm, we had to bear the rigid as rock act of Sanjay Dutt as Balraj. Flaunting his updated shawl collection irrespective of the season timeline in movie, he hardly makes an effort to do both his reel and real job.
Though credited in a ‘special appearance’, Kunal Khemu gets more to do than several ‘apparent’ leads of the cast, proving his mettle. Kiara Advani performs right as supposed. The song feat. Kriti Sanon was a blast, coming as a rescue to my senses while the movie was otherwise plunging slowly. My other favorite track from the above – average album (by Pritam) is the title track, as it escalates the appeal while echoing several times in the background. The editing (by Shweta Venkat Mathew) seemed as if the makers were too proud of their product to delete anything they had shot.
All of this makes Kalank not a pleasurable watch, as it drags for over 165 minutes. It is plastic in its approach to every emotion, and thus fails to recreate the intended feel of timelessness, further weighed down by the everlasting slow – motion sequences. Not every flaw can be hidden beneath opulent sets and a charming cinematography (by Binod Pradhan) – atleast not a ‘Kalank’!