Cast: Alia Bhatt, Varun Dhawan, Sonakkshi Sinha, Aditya Roy Kapur, Madhuri Dixit, Sanjay Dutt, Kunal Kemmu
Director: Abhishek Varman
Rating: 3 Stars (out of 5)
Opulent sets, visual luxuriance, intense emotions, a luminous Madhuri Dixit who still emotes and pirouettes like a dream and a stunningly on-top-of-her-game Alia Bhatt make Kalank a near-spotless movie experience. On the surface at any rate. The production design and the cinematography are first rate. Screenwriter-director Abhishek Varman orchestrates the resources at his disposal – they are no doubt enormous – with flair and a sense of proportion. This tantalising tale of forbidden love and its repercussions set in the subcontinent’s turbulent past encounters massive wobbles along the way but never ceases to be mesmerizing. It overreaches and revels in the act. In its failures lie its allure.
The vastness of the canvas of Kalank and the excess of its dramatic flourishes dwarf the politics and the psychology that drive the narrative forward. You want desperately to get up close and personal with the characters on the screen, feel their pulse, hear them breathe, sense their sighs, but the overwhelming surface gloss is an impediment. It prevents any direct connection from taking shape between the wide-eyed audience and the dramatis personae seen in the tainted light of an unhappy dawn.
They come and go looking beautiful and sounding bewitching even when they are down in the dumps. They rarely leap out of their shiny cloaks to become tangible individuals capable of communicating the raw feelings that the period – the tumultuous years leading up to the Partition of the subcontinent – should evoke.
Kalank is technically a multi-starrer, but for an Rs 80-crore production it does not have the sort of crowd-pullers who can assure a bumper opening. So what the film does, and does well, is rely on the power of the image to hold our attention. Almost three hours long, it seems a touch stretched at times. However, the actors, not the least Varun Dhawan in by far the meatiest role of his career, throw everything that they can muster into the mix, giving the plot both potency and pathos.
In the blinding glow of Madhuri Dixit’s presence as a Heera Mandi courtesan, the younger cast members pale somewhat in comparison. That is no reflection on their abilities. Alia Bhatt does not break a sweat in making her presence felt, while Sonakshi Sinha makes the most of the limited scope the screenplay offers her.
Kalank has unmistakable contemporary resonance because it celebrates the transformative power of love in the time of rampant hatred. The film is worth a viewing not only for what it says, but also for how it packages its pacifist statement.
(This is a short review. Please check back soon for the full version)
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