Read Watch Listen - 2019


Kalank Review: Lots of Style, Little Substance

By Shivani Tripathi

Kalank is one of the most anticipated Hindi films of 2019. Produced by Dharma Productions, which is synonymous with glamour and grandeur, Kalank is a saga featuring three couples whose lives are intertwined in a 1940s fictional city near Lahore. Lavish visuals in the form of a beautiful star cast, rich clothing, and extravagant sets might bring people to theaters, but it's not enough to sustain interest in an almost three-hour long film. Poor writing and direction, uninspired acting, odd editing, and not-so-special special effects are why Kalank is a disappointing, unsatisfying watch.

There certainly are moments of awe and delicious anticipation in the movie. The audience is nicely teased with glimpses of individual characters before they're fully revealed, with their silhouette surrounded by the beauty of crystal chandeliers or snow peaked mountains. The celebration of Dusshera in the picturization of "Ghar More Pardesiya" is absolutely breathtaking, as the splendor of the red-light district is on full display with vibrant colors, imaginative story-telling and detailed production design. The frames in this scene are nothing less than mesmerizing: bright red plumage swirls across the screen from the cut wing of a bird, multiple blue-hued Ram-like figures simultaneously leap from water gripping arrows of fire, massive pink lotuses dot a waterway lined with leaping yellow-colored monkey-men. Had the film's writer-director Abhishek Varman created a 2-hour long Ramleela based on the few portions of the Ramayan showcased in Kalank, possibly a marvelous masterpiece would have emerged!

While the world of Kalank is magnificent, Varman fails its inhabitants. The film is no feather in the caps of current box office darlings, Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt. Both actors had the maximum screen time but aren't in harmony like in their previous successful projects, Humpty Sharma ki Dulhania and Badrinath ki Dulhania, nor are their performances satisfying. The super-hit jodi of Madhuri Dixit and Sanjay Dutt returns after a gap of almost 20 years and that crackling chemistry between them, as seen in blockbusters Thanedaar, Saajan and Khalnayak, can officially be declared extinguished. One of the rare, touching scenes in the film is when Aditya Roy Kapoor's stoic Dev shows vulnerability and affection towards his compassionate wife, Satya, played by Sonakshi Sinha. Sinha's beautiful eyes flow with tears as she reminds him the immortal nature of true love. This pairing is fresh and if the couple signs on for a soulful romance, ala Sinha-starrer Lootera or Kapoor-starrer Aashiqui 2, it would be most welcomed! Furthermore, this tender moment highlights how for most of Kalank, characters speak at one another but never meaningfully engage with each another. Like the arranged furniture around them, actors are merely beautiful, color-coordinated props.

Kalank will leave many much more appreciative of well-executed, large scale productions such as Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Bajirao Mastani and S.S. Rajamouli's Baahubali 2: The Conclusion, which were as engaging as they were extravagant. Kalank may provide Dharma Productions strong reason for introspection as its chieftain, Karan Johar, prepares to direct Takht, also a multi-starrer, big-budget period drama, set to release in 2020. If scale again is prioritized over story, the luster associated with the Dharma will certainly diminish.

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Shivani Tripathi cannot remember a time she wasn't madly in love with Indian cinema and writing. She spends time in New York, North Carolina and Twitterpur at @Shivani510