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Varun-Alia shine in this Bhansali tribute!

Produced by : Karan Johar, Sajid Nadiadwala
Directed by : Abhishek Varman
Written by: Hussain Dalal
Star cast : Madhuri Dixit, Sonakshi Sinha, Alia Bhatt, Varun Dhawan, Aditya Roy Kapur, Sanjay Dutt

FILMFARE ME STARS:  (3/5)

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On first impressions – the opening scene of Kalank that introduces the female protagonist, is reminiscent of Aishwarya Rai’s introductory kite scene in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam while Kriti Sannon’s song sequence Aira Gaira Natthu Khera reminds you of Aishwarya Rai’s Kajra Re from Bunty aur Babli. The similarities do not end here. The mohallas, the kothas, the waterways, the haveli, the Ram Leela, the metaphor of Lanka – all seem to have a sense of déjà vu – characters we have watched and seen over the last few years.

Varman uses his premise of a Bhansaliesque world of pre-partition with a clear divide between the respectable and regimented world of the Indian rich of Husnabad as against the world of workers, blacksmiths and prostitutes of Heera Mandi. This other world harbors a simmering sense of revolution within its sinews and has Kunal Khemu in the role of a political activist.

It all starts with a dying but loyal wife Satya played by Sonakshi Sinha, who gets a new bride for her husband thinking she’ll sort out his life before she dies (remember a similar self-sacrificing character in Kal Ho Na Ho). The bride agrees to the arrangement that she will be respected and looked after but not loved. So, quite like Devdas’s Paro who settles for a loveless marriage but is granted all luxury and respect, the educated Roop of Kalank agrees to the arrangement for the sake of her family.

The conflict appears when she insists on learning music from across the family’s moral line of control – from a famous nautch girl. The rich-poor/ repute/ ill-repute divide collapses. Reminiscent of the Paro – Chandramukhi dance in Devdas is the very hummable Ghar More Pardesiya that has the nautch girl Bahar begum played by Madhuri and Roop as Alia dance together in her elaborate kotha.

The drama is aggravated when the much married Roop falls in love with a blacksmith Zafar (the love-child of her father in law and Bahaar Begum). Zafar, shown to be a blatant womanizer is pretty old fashioned when it comes to dealing with Roop. Love doesn’t have lust in this equation clearly.

Varun Dhawan’s shines in his role as Zafar portraying helplessness and vengeance and his surma clad-eyes add to his look. The ‘palat scene’ from DDLJ isn’t really spelt out, but Roop’s longing glances at Zafar make you want to say that in your mind. Kiara Advani plays a small but supporting role and Kriti Sannon is part of one song in the film.

Alia Bhatt is self-assured as Roop. She is not a mere wall-flower. She writes and has an opinion on advertising that is taken seriously by her publisher husband played by Aditya Roy Kapur, in his most restrained role. Roop dares to seek love outside marriage and even confesses to her husband about her interest. Aditya Roy Kapur plays the mature, restrained and non-chauvinist husband who is progressive in outlook and battling his own demons of losing a wife, battling an archetypal dad (played by Sanjay Dutt) and quelling a revolution.

The scene where him and Varun scream near the river is reminiscent of the Dil toh Pagal Hai Scene which has Karisma Kapoor pelting stones at the sky with Shahrukh Khan watching.

The film is visually picture perfect. You tend to get so lost in its beauty and visual aspects that it is tough to connect to the character’s trauma and anguish. Everyone is impeccably dressed and in control – save for Varun who shows his helplessness, vulnerability and rawness of being discarded as a love child.

The question towards the end sounds anachronistic to today’s day and age. It attempts to be a classic. It falls short of being one. Worth a watch for sure for all the effort put in. Without its cliché’s perhaps, it might have been one.

 

 

 

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