Varun Dhawan, Alia Bhatt, Aditya Roy Kapoor, Sonakshi Sinha, Madhuri Dixit, Sanjay Dutt, Kunal Khemu and Kiara Advani
Abhishek Varman

It is a fact that I am dreading reviewing magnum opuses that Bollywood seems to be churning out since Thugs Of Hindostan. Everything about Kalank reeks of extravagance and yet, when it comes to EQ the film is slightly stingy.

Satya (Sonakshi Sinha) is happily married to Dev (Aditya Roy Kapoor), she loves him so much that she insists he takes on another wife. Of course, Satya has her reasons, which is amply explained. Of course, there are some that are unsaid, like the fact that it is pre-independence era, so Science and human beings were both regressive. Given Dev will do anything to make his wife happy, he marries Roop (Alia Bhatt).

Roop, as her name suggests, is the epitome of beauty but when it comes to winning over her husband, the only thing she gains is his respect, not his love. Love is something she can never have from Dev, which is very magnanimously explained by him after they are married.

Her marriage into the rich illustrious family of the Chaudhary’s is stifling for the young bride. Eventually, she starts looking for an escape, Roop manages to get her husband to let her learn music and dance from a nautch girl or rather, woman – Bahaar Begum (Madhuri Dixit).

Begum lives in a sprawling mansion in the bad end of the town. Of course, Roop takes to Begum and the homies without batting an eye. The only time that she freezes is when she meets Zafar (Varun Dhawan) - the bare-chested blacksmith has a way with the girls and he zeroes in on the new bride, almost instantly. Slowly and steadily, Dev’s disinterest and Zafar’s charm start working on Roop and she decides to follow her heart, away from the walls of the Chaudhary mansion to the gullies of Zafar’s home.

As soon as Begum gets a whiff of what’s brewing, she tries to stop Zafar! For a boy born out of wedlock to parents who refused to accept him, Zafar doesn’t feel too empathetic towards his mother’s advice or his father Balraj Chaudhary (Sanjay Dutt)’s family. What happens thereafter is more tamasha and some violence that’s spun around politics and drama in equal measures.

Given Kalank was touted to be a dream project with such an illustrious star cast, it is shocking how uninspired it seems at times. The film has Bhansali-esque grandeur that you see from the first scene, but it takes a while for things to conclude. At the very beginning, you realise you are in a 70mm soap opera with a script coming at you from an era that we do not live in anymore. To be fair, the film is not really set in this era anyway.

You hope that Madhuri’s ethereal dance takes your mind off her constant poise, which makes you want to shake her up a little bit and demand some reaction. While one of the greatest pull towards Kalank was to be able to see Madhuri and Sanjay Dutt together once again, but keeping hopes high on this account is hopeless. We barely see Dutt through the film, and even scenes where he is present, you don’t get the impact of seeing Dutt in action. Sonakshi Sinha and Aditya Roy Kapoor are both efficient. . As for the rest of the cast - Kunal Khemu who plays a meanie – Abdul does his part for the film. Kiara has  three scenes which have no real recollection value. However, the songs and music of the film are a huge draw in the film. The dancing and choreography are stellar.

Kalank is a love story so let’s get to the main ingredient of the screen play – the chemistry between Bhatt and Dhawan. The two are supposed to look diametrically opposite, given one is Hindu and the other Muslim, one is rich the other poor...Their comfort on the sets is also poles apart… while Varun just fits into his character, Alia seems lost in the grandiose around her, awaiting a chance to be the bindass, speaks-her-mind girl she usually plays. Varun Dhawan is clearly the star of the film, as he is easily the most eased into his setting. His intensity and acting are commendable. 

Clearly, there are a few others who have done their job and done it well  -  Pravin Tambe (set designer) and Binod Pradhan (Cinematographer).  Because of these two, some memorable moments, and the  music, this film should be watched. A film is first about the story, which is not necessarily "first class" in this case, but a film is also about the effort of everything else. And the effort is spell-bounding.

The rest, including Mr. Varman need to go back for re-evaluate.

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