“An ambitious vanity vehicle that is blemished by incompetent writing. An unmistakable Bhansali-ism is evident, Varman transplants a “Trishul” in the grandiose set pieces, foregrounded by the pre-partition milieu.”
“Kalank”, helmed by Dharma Productions and directed by Abhishek Varman, is “Trishul”(the Yash Chopra multi-starrer) as its skeletal core fleshed out with a Sanjay Leela Bhansali breed of visual grandeur. But sadly, these two entities are just my way of referencing and little does this anticipated multi-starrer do to justify them.
Varman, who last directed the breezy “2 States” five years ago, assembles an enviable star-cast in the pre-partition era in Lahore, plagued by the undercurrent of communal tension. An unmistakable Bhansali influence is clearly evident, with the opulence, staggering set pieces and vivid textures forming the backdrop to the story of doomed love, loss, hatred, and redemption.
And to be honest, the story by Shibani Bhatija is criminally unimaginative which is further downgraded by an unforgivably tiring screenplay. We are not told the actual reason but Roop (Alia Bhatt) is coerced by Satya (Sonakshi Sinha) to fill in the void of her husband, Dev Chaudhry (Aditya Roy Kapur) when she discovers she is terminally ill. Roop demands a conjugal union, Dev agrees for the sake of her wife and the result is a lifeless marriage. Also strained is the relationship between Dev and his wealthy and influential father, Baldev Chaudhry (Sanjay Dutt) and there are secrets concealed in their royal mansion, waiting to be revealed.
In the vicinity of that mansion is the much disgraced Hira Mandi – the red-light district of courtesans and a playboy blacksmith, Zafar (Varun Dhawan) who shares a mysterious equation with the matriarch of the mandi, Bahar Begum (Madhuri Dixit). Roop is smitten by Zafar who has sinister intentions.
The characters are compelling here, but the narrative lacks depth and turns out to be awfully inconsistent. It fails to grip you and with a 2 hour 48 minutes of butt-numbing run time, it exhausts and tests your patience. It appears as if the film is an improperly stitched product of independent silos.
Dialogues by Hussain Dalal are thought-provoking but this makes the film artificial when characters render them in a perpetually philosophical and proverbial mode. Pacing and continuity are usually on vacation in this ambitious project, which otherwise boasts of exquisite cinematography by Binod Pradhan. Music by Pritam turns out to be a deterrent except for ‘Baaki Sab First Class Hai’.
To some extent, “Kalank” is salvaged by its performances. The actors – Varun Dhawan, Alia Bhatt, and Aditya Roy Kapur bring in immense sincerity in portraying heartfelt emotions. Sanjay Dutt and Madhuri Dixit have shorter screen time but do generate nostalgia when they come face to face in a key moment. Sonakshi Sinha revitalizes her “Lootera” character and doesn’t disappoint. Kunal Khemu is criminally wasted in an antagonistic character. Kiara Advani’s part is not worth mentioning.
On the whole, “Kalank” sinks under the weight of its blemishes – a disappointing script and an overlong execution.
I go with 2 stars out of 5.