Updated: Sep 15, 2019
There is no literal translation for the Hindi word ‘Kalank’, but it is similar to words like ‘defilement’ or ‘stigma’. Kalank tells the story of 6 individuals whose lives all interweave, even though some of them may not know it. The main character, Roop, played by Alia Bhatt, tells the story of her relationships in the months leading up to partition in Hindustan. For those who do not know, Hindustan was the name of what is now India, Pakistan and Bangladesh before partition took place in 1947. Although, I wouldn’t class this as a historical film due to the fact that the main story is fabricated and the actual intricacies of partition aren’t delved into as much as they could have been. Portrayals of events are very one-sided. I suppose this is because the story mostly focusses on the lives of the characters and their own loves in life, as well as their mistakes in life. I was worried about how messy this film was going to be because there were a few different story lines going on at the same time that jumped about, but they all came together well eventually.
‘Putting up boarders doesn’t make the world bigger or smaller, it just tears people’s lives apart.’
Bollywood seems to be making some impressive changes when it comes to expressing important social issues in the content of their films. I was so happy to see references to consent MADE BY MEN in Kalank, which really made 1940’s Hindustan seem more respectful that most modern societies. Furthermore, Kalank includes a lot of stigmas such as adultery, bastardry and mothers abandoning their children, which is so interesting to see because these issues are not usually seen in Bollywood films at all, let alone seen as issues that sometimes have reason and deserve forgiveness.
It was also lovely to see the portrayal of a unified Hindustan; seeing how Hindus would celebrate Eid with Muslims and how Muslims would dance with Hindus during Diwali. It was a bittersweet thing to watch considering that now that is not the case due to the lingering bitterness produced by partition.
Speaking of the Diwali, the portrayal of the festival in this film had some iconic moments in regards to cinematography and made me wish that Diwali festivals looked like that and had that much effort thrown into them in real life! The costuming and animations depicting religious Hindu figures like Rama, Sita and Ravana were awe-inspiring, as were the choreography that was put into the storytelling of the Ramayana tale. Moments like this have to be appreciated for their visual efforts. Although, there was some very bad CGI (more on that later).
I have heard some opinions suggesting that for a film that was musically directed by Pritam Chakraborty, Kalank’s songs were a little bit disappointing. I do think there are some real gems in the soundtrack like 'Tabah Ho Gaye', which translates to 'I Am Destroyed' it wonderful. Shreya Goshal, who sings 'Tabah Ho Gaye', is definitely one of the best Indian singers out there. Other songs like ‘Aira Gaira’, which translates to ‘stranger’, are so upbeat and just make you want to dance and twirl in big-ass a skirt. The vocals by Javed Ali and Tushar Joshi in this song are so sublime; there’s just something so pleasant to your ears when you hear the combination of their voices. But aside from these two songs, the others were rather forgettable.
In terms of the cast, I was really impressed. Bhatt did such a good job of not overacting and portraying some genuine emotions. Bhatt definitely has the single-teardrop-cry down. Varhun Dhawan and Aditya Roy Kapoor were also perfectly cast for their characters and each had their own charms. In addition to that, it was just very refreshing to see actors that aren’t Bollywood’s typical go-to actors (like Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh), not to say that those actors are bad! It’s just boring to see the same faces again and again. I love Tom Hanks, but imagine Tom Hanks being the lead actor in every single film. IT GETS OLD. But Bollywood has a tendency to use the same people, so it was nice to see other talented people being given some considerable screen time.
Seeing Madhuri Dixit, who plays Bahaar Begum, perform was wonderful and super nostalgic, since she was one of the most in demand actresses in the 2000s. Madhuri is such a divine dancer and that’s what she was always most appreciated for in her films; at the age of 51 she is no less impressive in her swift and elegant movements. Madhuri is the only female from the main cast who really dances in this film and for good reason… anyone else would have simply been upstaged!
Bollywood has a talent for producing beautiful choreography, architectural designs and some amazing costuming. The architecture and design are two of the things that are most stunning about this film, particularly the design of the brothel house run by Dixit’s character. The actual building is adorned with statues and fire-lit lamps around it, as well as a small pond filled with gorgeously large Water Lilies.
However, the clothing in this film, it wasn’t anything jaw-dropping which was disappointing because costuming has always played a huge part in Bollywood films. After seeing films like Jodha Akbar and Bajirao Mastani, the clothing in Kalank were almost sub-par.
Bollywood puts a lot of effort into aesthetics and visuals, which is why it is perturbing to me that their films still haven’t managed to master the art of CGI. Honestly, IT IS ATROCIOUS. There was a bullfight in Kalank that looked so disappointingly fake and was embarrassing to watch. But the bull fight wasn’t even the worst part, the fire CGI was the worst part. It looked like a GIF off of Instagram that was stuck onto the scene. Also, let me ask a question: Is it possible to bring out a fire-lit arrow from underneath water? Let me answer that question: NO. IT IS AGAINST THE LAWS OF SCIENCE. But this is a Bollywood film so I guess there had to be at least one instance of ludicrousness. Unfortunately, the CGI really let the cinematography department down.
I haven’t cried watching a Bollywood film for the past 5 years because sometimes they’re overdone, which results in a scene that is meant to be sad actually turning out to be preposterously scripted and edited with numerous flashes and zoom-ins whilst thunder sounds in the background. However, Kalank genuinely made me shed a few tears. It was dramatic, but not too much. Some reviews on IMDB are slating this film because it’s ‘boring’ and is a typical story, yet I disagree.
Partition is such an important part of South-Asian history, and many still feel the effects of the chaos that damaged the country and its peoples lives. So, it is surprising to me that prior to this, I’ve never seen a Bollywood film that has incorporated and acknowledged the horror of such events. Therefore, I have a sense of respect for this film. I also respect the fact that Kalank decides to focus on the love that exists in the world rather than the destruction, and questions the audience about which is more important. Karan Johar has done an amazing job producing this film by delivering the audience beautiful characters, beautiful imagery and a beautiful story.
Rating: 3 ½ out of 5*
Age Range: 12A