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Kalank Movie Review: It Is Drop-Dead Gorgeous!

Subhash K . Jha

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Kalank

Starring  Madhuri Dixit,  Sanjay Dutt, AliaBhatt, Varun Dhawan, Aditya Roy Kapur,Sonakshi Sinha

Directed  by Abhishek Varman

Rating: ****(4  stars)

After  I  finished watching  this long winding  but  ultimately  satisfying  tale  of unfulfilled  love, the  incandescent Alia Bhatt asked me  if  I  enjoyed  the  film.

No, I  didn’t enjoy Kalank. But  I still  liked  it . Liked it a  lot. For  its  inner and  outer  beauty.Kalank is  gorgeous , no , make that  drop-dead gorgeous, as two of  the main characters are gone by the time the  film ends. Every frame  is worked out to  an eye-catching detail exuding a  kind  arrested aestheticism that  implies  a penchant for  opulence and majesty that has  no  parallel  in real life.

And  certainly not in 1946 when the film’s tumultuous romance unravels(not as seamlessly as  one would imagine). The sets  and  the  imaginative use  of religious symbols in the songs are  breathtaking. And  put AliaBhatt in a gondola sailing through this  universe caught in the cusp  of  never-land, and  we have a supremely  seductive drama  where every  frame is a pose and  everydialogue a  poser.

There is  a whole lot of posturing in the  storytelling with no  character remaining consistently  in  character. Some  run out of steam,   others bay for   blood. Some  live others  die  while some  others  die even as  they live.But finally the chaos which was India during the months before the barbaric Partition,all comes together in a way that is not fully satisfying either  for  the characters  or  for the audience.

At the  end of the lengthy  but luminous storytelling I was stuck with how unhappy  every character is  in writer-director Abhishek Varman’s drama  of  the damned,none more so than  the dying Satya(Sonakshi Sinha) and  her  equally  soul-dead husband   Dev Chaudhary a man who stands by his  beliefs  no matter what the cos.

 Dev wants to bring industrial development  into  the town called Husnabad where the story  unfolds.But hell, Husnabad  is not  about growth but  arrested development. Over  here  the characters nestle their fragile oldworld sensibilities in a  cradle  of  curdled dreams. In this world of  frozen sumptuousness(shot with a  whittled-down gorgeousness  by  cinematographer  BinodPradhan that reminded me  of  what  SvenNykvist did to  Ingmar Bergman’s decadent aristocracy in Fanny  & Alexander) love  blossoms—if ‘blossom’ is  a correct definition  of  forbidden passion—when the  stately young Bahu of an aristocratic family, a second wife brought to  the  family by the first,   falls in love with a lowly  lohaar(goldsmith).

Alia Bhatt and  Varun Dhawan  play  the star-crossed lovers with  an abundance  of untamed passion.  But somehow the  sense  of urgent  attraction in forbidden love  from  David Lean’s  Ryan’s Daughter is missing here.

Whatever the shortcomings  suffered intranscreation from its powerful writing to  a relatively week execution on screen , the last  half-hour  when all hell (of Partition  violence) breaks  loose  is  jaw-dropping  in  its drama and  intensity.

 The performances  range  from the pitch-perfect to the  mis-communicated(KiaraAdvani’s  sexy kotha act is a hoot). VarunDhawan  brings  an admirable zest to his role as an illegitimate  lover. But  why the  kajal-laden eyes  so incongruously contrasted  with the gym-toned body?

Alia Bhatt is,  I repeat, incandescent. In the scenes  where she  portrays  her forlornness in a loveless  marriage she reminded me  of Madhabi Mukhrerjee in  Satyajit Ray’sCharulata. In  her rebellious resolution to  wrangle  love at any cost she was  like  Nutanin  Bandini.  Finally though she was all of herself  and then some  more.

Sonakshi Sinha  and Kunal Khemu are also  in  fine form.Madhuri Dixit dances like  a dream. But disappoints  in  the  dramatic  scenes which admittedly seem  underwritten and ham-fisted  talking in  riddles that  go nowhere. The real  surprise  is Aditya RoyKapur. Controlled  and  steadfast  the director makes  good use  of hus temperate personality to  denote calm and  common sense at a time when the world has gone berserk.

I came away from Kalank  as unhappy as  the main  characters. No, I didn’t enjoy the  film. But the lack of enjoyment did not  diminish  my admiration for  the film’s  innate beauty  .Kalank looks beautiful and feelsuncompromised. But  it  did not move me as  much as it should have.

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