×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Kalank’

A lavish but ponderous Bollywood extravaganza that springs to life during a few exuberantly over-the-top production numbers.

Director:
Abhishek Varman
With:
Varun Dhawan, Alia Bhatt, Madhuri Dixit, Sanjay Dutt, Sonakshi Sinha, Aditya Roy Kapur, Kunal Kemmu. Kriti Sanon. (Hindi, English dialogue)
Release Date:
Apr 17, 2019

2 hours 46 minutes

Events leading to the 1947 Partition of India serve as the forebodingly serious backdrop for the exhaustingly overextended razzmatazz of “Kalank,” writer-director Abhishek Varman’s lavish but ponderous Bollywood extravaganza, which opened in the U.S. on more than 300 screens the same day as its Indian release. Despite the preponderance of sets and costumes spectacular enough to make Baz Luhrmann weep with envy, and a handful of thrillingly choreographed production numbers that sporadically quicken the movie’s pulse and boost its eye-candy quotient, the attractive yet underwhelming lead players are too hampered by the lethargic narrative to sufficiently distract viewers from their awareness of time passing and interest diminishing.

The action unfolds in and around the city of Husnabad, a year or so before the Partition that eventually led to the establishment of India and Pakistan as independent countries. Newspaper publisher Dev Chaudhry (Aditya Roy Kapur), a well-to-do member of the Hindu-minority elite, routinely editorializes in his Daily Times for continuation of a united India — placing him at loggerheads with increasingly radicalized elements in the Muslim-majority population of the city.

On the other side of the Hindu-Muslim divide, in a notorious working-class neighborhood known as Hira Mandi, there’s Zafar (Varun Dhawan), a hunky, sword-forging blacksmith who’s usually more attentive to female conquests than revolutionary movements. He becomes progressively more outspoken in his opposition to Dev and other supporters of the status quo, especially when The Daily Times proselytizes for the opening of British-owned factories that could drive independent artisans such as himself out of business.

Of course, since “Kalank” is the kind of movie that it is — namely, a swoony romantic epic that exploits political upheavals only for their value as impediments to lovers, star-crossed and otherwise — Zafar has far more personal reasons to despise Dev. The swaggering blacksmith actually is the product of a years-ago adulterous union between Balraj Chaudhry (Sanjay Dutt), Dev’s father, and Bahaar Begum (Madhuri Dixit), a courtesan who continues to operate what appears to be a combination brothel and singing school in an opulent edifice roughly half the size of the Taj Mahal.

Abandoned by both parents, Zafar has grown up to be a prideful rascal who cuts an erotic swath through the female population of Husnabad, fights bulls with his bare hands for sport — one of the movie’s many excuses for Dhawan to doff his shirt and reveal his well-oiled torso — and yearns for an opportunity to take revenge on the Chaudhry family.

The day of reckoning arrives when Satya (Sonakshi Sinha), Dev’s wife, is diagnosed with cancer and opts to ensure her husband is cared for after her imminent passing. Through a carefully calibrated mix of entreaty and bribery, she convinces the beautiful Roop (Alia Bhatt) to become Dev’s second wife — in the mid-1940s, the opening titles helpfully inform us, polygamy was legal in India — so that she can more or less coach her own replacement. Right from the start, however, Dev insists that, while he will pay all due respect to Roop, he has no intention of consummating their marriage. This allows Roop more than enough time to take singing lessons at Bahaar Begum’s salon, where, naturally, she captures Zafar’s fancy even before he learns who she is and how valuable she can be.

Very little of what follows is at all surprising, and quite a bit of it is borderline silly. In his eagerness to make “Kalank” more wall-to-wall glamorous than a vintage MGM musical, writer-director Varman strains to make everything from ostensible slums to sword-wielding rioters appear vividly colorful, if not downright beautiful. The requisite romantic chemistry between Roop and Zafar never really sparks, partly because Zafar’s motivations seem to change arbitrarily from scene to scene, and largely because Bhatt is so unaccountably bland as Roop. And while it’s hardly unprecedented for violent language and actions to be elements in a Bollywood musical, the furious mayhem of this particular movie’s climax feels even more incongruous than usual.

There’s really nothing in the dialogue-heavy sections of “Kalank” that is as impressive and infectiously exuberant as the over-the-top performance of a tune like “Aira Gaira,” an exuberant show-stopper that has a saucy young woman (Kriti Sanon) cavorting with Zafar and Dev (who don’t recognize each other) and a few hundred dancing extras. Indeed, whenever there is a long stretch between the big production numbers here, you can’t help wishing everyone would just stop yapping and start singing and dancing again.

Film Review: ‘Kalank’

Reviewed at AMC Studio 30, Houston, April 17, 2019. Running time: 166 MIN.

Production: (India) A Fox Star Studios release and presentation of a Dharma Prods. production in association with Nadiadwala Grandson Entertainment. Producers: Karan Johar, Sajid Nadiadwala, Hiroo Yash Johar, Apoorva Mehta.

Crew: Director, screenplay: Abhishek Varman. Camera (color): Binod Pradhan. Editor: Shweta Venkat Mathew. Music: Sanchit Balhara, Ankit Balhara.

With: Varun Dhawan, Alia Bhatt, Madhuri Dixit, Sanjay Dutt, Sonakshi Sinha, Aditya Roy Kapur, Kunal Kemmu. Kriti Sanon. (Hindi, English dialogue)

More Film

  • Zach Galifianakis Jerry Seinfeld Netflix

    Film News Roundup: Zach Galifianakis' 'Between Two Ferns: The Movie' Coming to Netflix

    In today’s film news roundup, “Between Two Ferns: The Movie” is unveiled, “Friedkin Uncut” gets a fall release and Sony Classics buys “The Traitor” at Cannes. MOVIE RELEASES Netflix has set a Sept. 20 release date for Zach Galifianakis’ “Between Two Ferns: The Movie,” based on his 11-year-old talk show. Galifianakis made the announcement during [...]

  • Romanian Crime-Thriller 'The Whistlers' Bought for

    Romanian Crime-Thriller 'The Whistlers' Bought for North America

    Magnolia Pictures has bought North American rights to the Romanian crime thriller “The Whistlers” following its premiere in competition at the Cannes Film Festival. Written and directed by Corneliu Porumboiu, the film stars Vlad Ivanov, Catrinel Marlon, Rodica Lazar, Antonio Buil, Agustí Villaronga, Sabin Tambrea, Julieta Szonyi and George Pisterneanu. Magnolia is eyeing a theatrical [...]

  • Naomi Scott Talks Rebooting Princess Jasmine

    'Aladdin': Naomi Scott on Why Her Princess Jasmine Needed Nasim Pedrad's New Character

    Call Naomi Scott the queen of the reboot – or at least, the princess. The 26-year-old actress is taking on the role of Princess Jasmine in Disney’s live-action remake of “Aladdin,” but it’s not her first time jumping into a role that’s already been well-established. Audiences may recognize Scott from 2017’s “Power Rangers” update, where [...]

  • Moby Natalie Portman

    Moby Accuses Natalie Portman of Lying as the Two Spar Over Dating Claims

    In what’s become a he said/she said spat in multiple mediums, Moby, the elder statesman of electronic music, is now accusing actress Natalie Portman of lying and pleading to those on social media for his safety as “physical threats from complete strangers” emerge. To recap: this month, Moby released a new book, “Then It All [...]

  • A QUIET PLACE Emily Blunt

    'A Quiet Place' Sequel Moves Ahead Two Months to March 2020

    Paramount Pictures has moved its sequel to “A Quiet Place” ahead by two months from May 15 to March 20, 2020. John Krasinski is returning to direct the still-untitled movie with Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe reprising their roles. Cillian Murphy is joining the cast. “A Quiet Place” grossed $340 million at the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content