With a tear rolling down her eye, Roop (Alia Bhatt) breaks the fourth wall and asks the audience, "Aapne is kahaani mein kya dekha, kalank yaa mohabbat?" Wait, is she confused just like us? To get a better picture, let's hit the flashback button and step into the world of Kalank.
Set in the pre-partition period in Husnabad in outskirts of Lahore, Roop (Alia Bhatt), a young, carefree girl gets married to Dev (Aditya Roy Kapur) while his wife Satya (Sonakshi Sinha) emotionally watches the nuptial with the patriach of their house, Dev Chaudhary (Sanjay Dutt).
At the same time in the same town in a place called Hira Mandi, a koel-eyed blacksmith named Zafar (Varun Dhawan) dances 'First Class' with exuberance outside Begum Bahar (Madhuri Dixit)'s chamber, unware of how his fate is all set to change forever.
Like Alia's Roop mentions in the film, "Mere gussa mein liye gaye Ek faisle ne hum sab ki zindagi barbaad kar di." As forbidden romance seeps in with Roop-Zafar's love-story, Balraj and Begum Bahar too are forced to confront their past which threatens to tear their present apart along with the dangling danger of the partition.
Abhishek Varman's Kalank has lots of gloss- right from opulent sets to resplendent costumes. Unfortunately, they fail to camouflage the feeble story and screenplay. Also, the film borrows heavily from many films from the past. (Amitabh Bachchan's Trishul being the most evident one). The disjointed screenplay too takes a toil and leaves you exhausted with its lazy pace.
Having said that, the film does have some shining moments which leave you choked up with emotions. Most of them mostly surface in the last 30 minutes of the film.
Speaking about the performances, Alia Bhatt succeeds in portraying the complexities of Roop, a character torn between love and her duties with conviction. However, it's Abhishek's weak writing which makes her go a little off the track at places.
In one of the most meatiest roles of his career, Varun Dhawan gets to dabble with a role that's high on intense emotions. The lad bravely takes it heads on, but he still has a long way to go when it comes to mouthing heavy-duty dialogues.
Madhuri Dixit is incandescent as the courtesan Begum Bahar and portrays the love, pain and empathy which her character demands with sheer brilliance. Sanjay Dutt too puts up a good show. However, one wished these two had more scenes together which could have added a greater impact.
Sonakshi Sinha chews the most of whatever she's offered in a limited screen space. Aditya Roy Kapur leaves a mark with his stoic silences, but fails to rise above Verman's poorly-sketched character. Kunal Kemmu delivers a good act.
Binod Pradhan's striking visuals perfectly captures the pre-partition era and the rich frames leave you mighty impressed. Shweta Venkat Mathew's editing could have been a little more sharp to make the film a little more taut. Also, the VFX in Varun's bull-fight scene comes across as funny and could have been easily avoided to prevent the unintentional chuckles.
While the songs of Kalank are a visual treat to watch, the audio fares below the expectation levels. Barring the title track and Ghar More Pardesiya, the rest fail to linger for long.
With a stellar cast and a magnum production budget, Kalank looked every bit promising on paper. But, it simply fails to translate on the big screen. To put in Begum Bahar's way, "Weak story and direction ka anjaam aksar tabaahi hi hota hai." I am going with 2.5 stars.