When it comes to Partition, our Hindi film industry has not as yet been able to come out of bichhde (separated) brothers’ syndrome. Though there is a slight difference here; bichhde involves an illegitimate son in the film.
Kalank gives you the impression that Sanjay Leela Bhansali has after all cast an influence on the new crop of directors in at least what the colour and hue of a film should look like. So, in a nutshell, it looks like a film by a Sanjay Leela Bhansali clone, with magnificent sets, lavish costumes but nothing else.
The period of the entire film doesn’t look like the pre-Partition days. In pre-Partition days, the degenerated tawaifs were not so rich to be able to organise such spectacular festivals.
And what a bull fight!! After seven seconds, the poor though intelligent animal itself went back to the cage!! It’s unbelievable, how our filmmakers consider audiences stupid!!
This film happens to be director Abhishek Verman’s second attempt. His first ‘2 States’ was also not very impressive and those who have read Chetan Bhagat’s novel of the same title are often found criticising it. The second attempt is worse than the first one.
The story involves a rich Hindu family of Husnabad, the patriarch, his son with a progressive outlook who is angry with his father for having a relationship with a tawaif, the son’s first wife who is dying of cancer and his second wife who marries him due to certain pressures and of course the environment just before the Partition. Sanjay Dutt looks like a typical patriarch with a towering screen presence. Aditya Roy Kapoor as his son too has an impressive screen presence but his dialogue delivery and voice is quite dull. The subtle nuances of intricate close relationships are also not projected effectively.
Varun Dhawan as the illegitimate son portrays the raging vengeance successfully, though he too has not as yet been able to weed out the Marathi accent and as a result he sounds a little awkward as a Muslim in Lahore. Kunal Khemu in a cameo was seen after a long time. He being a good actor does justice to the role but the entire scenario looks so artificial that none of the characters barring Alia move you.
Madhuri Dixit of course dances well but she is a good actress too. Alas, she has not been getting good roles and in Kalank too she just reminds of ‘Paro’ in Bhansali’s Devdas.
Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan have already proved their worth as actors and they are cool in this film too. Unfortunately, a good story with all the potential for becoming an intense visual feat proves to be dull, slow and uninteresting with the director paying more attention to sets and costumes. The only character that stands out is that of Alia Bhat portraying innocent love sans all kind of deception and Alia has played it successfully.
The music is very ordinary if not below average and no song, not even the background score remains in your mind once you leave the cinema hall.
People in India and Pakistan who already have such a rich and haunting legacy of the literary works set in Partition by Ismat Chugtai, Manto, Krishna Sobti, Rajendra Singh Bedi and many others will hardly find the movie impressive with such superficiality, hollow pomp and show. Then we have had some touching and strong films like ‘Garam Hawa’, ‘Manto’ ‘Earth’ etc that this film fades into sheer insignificance.
There is only one dialogue in the film that remains in your heart for long and is so true of our times full of hateful speeches and acts-- ‘Agar kisee ki barbadi me tumhe apni jeet ka ehsaas ho to samajh lo ki tumse zyada barbaad aur koi nahi.’ (If you feel that you have won by destroying someone, then no one is more wrecked and ruined than you yourself are).
If you want to watch the film for just this dialogue and ornate costumes, then go and watch it otherwise it will be better to not spend money on such a frivolous attempt at making a film on the so called ‘pre Partition’ days. It’s high time the directors of mainstream Hindi cinema started doing some serious research before venturing out to make a film on a period in our history which is so strongly marked in the psyche of both India and Pakistan.