‘Kalank’ Review: A Flawed yet Epic Tale of Forbidden Love

If you are looking for the definition of an epic fairytale love story, you’ll find it in the 2 hours and 46 minutes of “Kalank.”

The way society tends to view movie stars as otherworldly legends, this film tends to tell its story in terms, from clothing to sets to cinematography, that betray the same reverence for the stars and children of legends that fill each scene. The sets looked like they came from the epic period drama being shot in the second half of “Om Shanti Om” or the film within the film in “I Hate Luv Stories,” almost betraying some self-awareness of the very Dharma brand of cinema in which “Kalank” is firmly rooted.

[Photo Source: Screenshot / Fox Star Studios & Dharma Productions]
The cast, along with the audience, wanders throughout the film between wistfulness and wonder. Passion and anguish are sheltered in serene and stunning clothing. Even for a Bollywood film, “Kalank” relies heavily on its soundtrack, with soft instrumentals lining most minutes of the movie, giving the film a magical, fairytale-like feel even though it is set in a version of historical reality.

While the hyper-saturated cinematography and unique camera movements contribute to its otherworldly feel, at times substandard special effects distract from the visual grandeur of the film. Particularly, a scene where Varun Dhawan’s character, Zafar, is supposed to be bull riding, it’s quite obvious he is not, to an almost comedic level of amateurishness on the part of the special effects team, considering the scale of the film.

“Kalank” often takes itself too seriously, with its echoing sound production and glaringly blatant symbolism that betrays obvious lack of faith in the audience to be privy to subtle foreshadowing or context clues. While “Kalank” may be emotionally consuming, often it was intellectually offensive.

This is a story of forbidden love, plain and simple, with all the usual symptoms like classism and xenophobia, but with surprisingly minimal sexism. It takes place during the era of independence and the subsequent partition — a favorite setting for establishing conflict and inspiring nationalism.

It also exemplifies Hindus while putting a handful of Muslim characters on a pedestal along with the Hindus at the sake of the larger Muslim community.

[Photo Source: Screenshot / Fox Star Studios & Dharma Productions]
It’s cheesy, no doubt. It draws an unflattering comparison to “Titanic,” with all the drama without an ounce of comic relief. Also, side note, Dhawan’s Zafar totally could have made it on the train if he had just hopped on an earlier car and found Alia Bhatt’s character, Roop, at the next station, rather than trying to run for Roop’s outstretched arm two cars ahead while being chased by men with swords. And that train platform was unrealistically long.

The highlight of “Kalank” was definitely the performances. Most of the six main characters, most surprisingly Sonakshi Sinha, managed a soliloquy that produced that iconic, silver screen-level single-eye tear amongst the audience.

[Read Related: Amazon’s ‘Made in Heaven’ Review: Desi Weddings Aren’t All Ladoos & Mehndi]

The voiceover at the end of “Kalank” takes a potentially intellectual and ambiguous moral ending and instead spoon-feeds to the audience that the ending could be interpreted in many ways depending on your perspective. It then proceeds to explain what the right perspective is.

Despite many flaws, audiences would be forgiven to get swept away by a story grander than their own — of lives symbolic of history — that remind you just how big life can really be for those who are brave.

By Anubhuti Kumar

Anu is a Clevelander living in New York and a graduate of New York University with a Bachelor of Arts … Read more ›

‘The Romantics’: Revisiting the Legacy and Grandeur of Yash Chopra With Filmmaker Smriti Mundhra

The Romantics

If you are a South Asian, born in the ’80s or the early ’90s, chances are your ideas of love and romance are heavily influenced by Hindi films — that first gaze, the secret love notes, that accidental meeting somewhere in Europe, over-the-top gestures and dancing around trees. While reality may have been far from what was promised on reel, you still can’t stop pining over a hopeless romantic, with chocolate boy looks, chasing you across the earth and many universes; in the life here and the ones after. Somewhere deep down, you still dream of that possibility despite your husband sitting and sipping his morning coffee right next to you. And much of the credit for weaving this dreamland, that we can’t resist happily sliding into, goes to the legendary Yash Chopra. Award-winning filmmaker Smriti Mundhra’s docu-series, “The Romantics,” that released on Netflix on February 14, chronicles Chopra’s prolific career; offering an illuminating look into the highs and lows of his journey, his unblemished vision for Hindi cinema and sheer love for filmmaking. 

I wanted to look at Indian cinema through the lens of it being a major contributor to the global cinema canon and Yash Chopra seemed like the perfect lens to explore that because of the longevity of his career and the fact that he had worked across so many different genres. His films, for so many of us, defined what Hindi cinema is.

— Smriti Mundhra

As “The Romantics” unveils, in a mere episode — a challenging feat in itself — Chopra did experiment with multiple genres as a budding filmmaker, initially under the shadows of his elder brother B.R. Chopra. From the religiously sensitive “Dharamputra” and the trendsetting “Waqt” to the action-packed and iconic “Deewaar.” It wasn’t until later on in his career that he set a precedent for a Hindi film having a wholly romantic narrative; though “Waqt” did offer the perfect glimpse into what would go on to become Chopra’s cinematic imprint. And then came “Chandni” which ushered in a new era for Hindi cinema; defying the formulaic approach to box office success and making love stories the golden goose.

In the words of more than 30 famous faces, a host of archival videos and interviews, and personal anecdotes, audiences get an extensive insight into the life and career of Yash Chopra and the evolution of his vision through the business acumen and genius of his polar opposite son and a famous recluse, Aditya Chopra. “The Romantics” is not a fancy portrait of a legendary filmmaker but an exploration of what goes into making a successful film family and a path-breaking production house. As viewers, we not only get a peek into the making of a fantasy creator but also learn of the many failures, hurdles and uncertainties that the business of filmmaking comes packaged in, the impact of socio-political shifts on the kind of content being produced and demanded, and just how much control we have as an audience over the fate of the film and the filmmaker.

For both the uninitiated and fanatics, there are some interesting revelations like Shah Rukh Khan’s lifelong desire to become an action hero as opposed to a romantic one and the creative conflict between Aditya Chopra and his father Yash Chopra on the sets of “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge” — a project that, surprisingly, did not seem too promising to the latter. Mundhra penetrates deep into the family’s history and industry relationships evoking some really candid conversations; almost as if these celebs were eagerly waiting for their moment to speak. With one appraising interview after the other, it’s a panegyric that does border on being a tad tedious but there is enough depth and fodder in there to keep one hooked. Kudos to Mundhra for managing to achieve cohesion despite there being more than enough material to chew on. In the process of bringing this project to life, Mundhra also ends up achieving a number of milestones: one that the series features the last of actor Rishi Kapoor’s interviews and two, it brings Aditya Chopra, who, it appears, can talk a blue streak contrary to popular belief, to the front of the camera after almost two decades. The moment when he puts the nepotism debate to rest by referring to his brother’s catastrophic attempt at acting is quite the show-stealer.


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At some point during the four-episode series, you might question if it’s fair to credit the Yash Raj family for being the only real changemakers of the Hindi film industry and for picking up the baton to get Hindi cinema the global recognition that it has. But then there is no denying the Chopra clan’s body of work, their ability to understand what pleases the crowd and their commitment towards growth and progress amidst changing times and technology — Yash Raj Studios is in fact the only privately held and one of the biggest, state-of-the-art film studios in India. Chopra’s career and legacy are in no way under-lit that Mundhra can claim to throw new light on with “The Romantics.” But what she really has on offer here are sheer nostalgia, some fascinating discoveries and an ode to a cinephile and his art with a bit of fan service.

In an interview with Brown Girl Magazine, Mundhra discusses why it was so important for Chopra to be the subject of her docu-series, her own learnings during the series’ research and creative process and her accomplishment of getting Aditya Chopra to talk, and that too, at length.

By Nida Hasan

Editor by profession, writer by passion, and a mother 24/7, Nida is a member of Brown Girl Lifestyle's editing team … Read more ›