To sit through Kalak was a task. But I was watching a film in a cinema fall after a month and I had to sit through it. Even though I knew I didn’t have review it, considering the fact that it released last week, I wanted to sit through it because I am a fan of the experience of watching a film in a theatre. But was Kalank worth it?
On the surface, Kalank is about an upper caste Hindu woman falling in love with a lower caste Muslim man, against the backdrop of the Partition of India. Writer, director Abhishek Varman adds his complex to the film. Love, relationships, politics, but he fails (miserably) to add essence. Kalank is a mess. It tries to be so much, but ends up being nothing. Apart from gorgeous sets, there is absolutely nothing worth watching in Kalank, and I’d rather wait to watch this mess on Amazon Prime than spend any money watching it on the big screen.
The heart of Kalank, as the title suggests is something that goes off limits. Here, it’s the love between Alia Bhatt’s Roop and Varun Dhawan’s Zafar. Roop is the second wife of rich and famous Dev (Aditya Roy Kapur) who is forced into a marriage by his dying wife, Satya (Sonakshi Sinha). Sanjay Dutt and Madhuri Dixit appear as Dev and Zafar’s parent respectively when that convenience is needed. Dixit’s Bahar Begum also appears when Roop has to take singing lessons. Varman bases this story in pre-partition India, almost at the brisk of the partition.
The year is 1944, but the Muslim League, a very prominent name in Lahore at that time is mentioned only twice, in casual conversations. Dev runs The Daily Mail, a very prominent newspaper, but never talks politics, the Muslim League, the Indian National Congress but is willingly discussing advertisements. When you base the film on such an important event in history, talk about it. You can’t just base a film in 1944 and ignore the politics of India and now Pakistan. For a minute I will agree that you do not want to talk about it, but at least do some justice to your title! For a film called Kalank, there is absolutely no focus on Roop and Zafar’s forbidden love. In fact, I didn’t see any love between them. Were Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan so incapable of showing love, their chemistry, I don’t think so. Were Roop and Zafar written in the worst possible way? Yes. Kalank is proof of the fact that lazy writing will never throw sparks even with Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan who have, in the past, shown us brilliant on-screen chemistry.
There just isn’t enough spark between Roop and Zafar. They’re said to be madly in love with each other, but when does the love happen? Varun Dhawan gives an earnest performance, but in the wrong film. Alia Bhatt is stuck in the wrong character. The way Roop is written so flimsily, doesn’t do any justice to her talent and in turn, she can’t do any justice to Roop. There is no character arc, plot arcs are forgotten and the setting has gone for a toss. Aditya Roy Kapur and Sonakshi Sinha as Dev and Satya suffer in the background. Both try their level best to break the mould and do something but their characters don’t allow them do. Sinha has a screen time of 10 minutes, most of which she spends lying in beds, and that’s plain heart breaking. Madhuri Dixit and Sanjay Dutt are wasted too, the latter more than the former. Dutt has absolutely nothing to do apart from walking down long corridors in brilliant pashminas. Dixit, on the other hand, is given two songs and some dialogues in a mix of Hindi and wannabe Urdu, but again, the character ruins her skill too.
Kalank wants to be a Sanjay Leela Bhansali production. But it cannot. Even the sets do not match up to the grandeur of Bhansali films. There’s too poor VFX and not enough research to make sets like those. Producer Karan Johar blindly trusts Manish Malhotra and Maxima Basu for the costumes but are the era appropriate? I guess not. In fact, is anything in the film era appropriate? We see Alia Bhatt running around in Rajasthan (where there are snow capped mountains, by the way) completely carefree about men watching her. The year is 1944, which woman back then could do this? And there are no Britishers in the film! It’s peak partition time, do you think I am stupid?
What was perhaps needed for Kalank was a certain maturity – in the writing and in the acting. Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan are terrific actors, I agree, but they’re not as evolved as Madhuri Dixit to pull off flawed Urdu lines like, “Jab kisi aur ki barbaadi jeet jaisi lage toh humse zyaada barbaad koi nahi hai is duniya mein,” or “Jazbaat ko riwaazon ki gulami nahi karni chaiye“. Neither is Sonakshi Sinha, but somehow, she pulls them off. She looks more womanly than does Miss Bhatt.
One of my biggest problems with Kalank is that it refers to love as ishq, mohbbat and pyaar. The characters don’t stick to one word. It’s an era specific film, with a specific culture, a specific language, you can’t just play around with it. Even in the end, Roop says, “aap isko kya maanenge, kalank ya mohbbat?” If you have “yeh kalank nahi, ishq hai” in your title track, stick to ishq! How tough is it?
But slow claps for all the actors for promoting the film with such enthusiasm! Did y’all not watch the final edit? It’s a mess that the audience doesn’t deserve.
All in all Kalank is made on a budget of 150 crores. Imagine, if films like Masaan, Nil Battey Sannata, The Lunchbox had budgets like this (not in terms of figures but proportion) where could those filmmakers have taken their films, because Dharma Productions will definitely make the money (having sold the film and music rights for 80 crores) but these 150 crores have been wasted, along with resources and talent. The only thing I take from this film are Aditya Roy Kapur’s gorgeous kurtas, which my tailor will have to remake for me. Period.
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