In the pre-partition era in 1946, an elite Chowdhary family continues to live its life with visible grandeur, an overpowering sense of status quo and deep-buried secrets, at the heart of Husnabad. Abhishek Varman's Kalank tries to be an ode to all the suppressed desires and undying love but is confined in scattered moments.
Balraj Chowdhary (Sanjay Dutt) and his son Dev Chowdhary (Aditya Roy Kapur) run their newspaper, The Daily News with many contradictory ideologies. Dev, young, educated and progressive, is a vocal critic of the partition which looks almost inevitable by now. His cancer-stricken wife Satya (Sonakshi Sinha) insists that he marries Roop (Alia Bhatt). In another classic case of obliging to the spouse's Happiness, Dev agrees. Roop, young and beautiful and filled with all due thirsts of life, is trapped into a marriage that doesn't serve her emotionally and otherwise.
Things, however, are in for a change when the dark secrets of the Chowdhary clan start unfolding. Roop happens to come across Heera Mandi, the prohibited part of the city and therefore stumbles upon Zafar (Varun Dhawan) and Bahar Begum (Madhuri Dixit). Zafar causes Roop to unleash her romantic desires, and we all knew it wouldn't end well. This, at the same time, leads to a communal unreal, seeds of which were being watered for a while now.
The women in Abhishek Varman's film undertake plenty of attempts to look progressive and learned. Yet, one sees it was rather easy to convince an otherwise stubborn Alia as to how marrying into a prosperous family would do good to her middle-class family and two younger sisters. Sonakshi Sinha, who plays a quintessential committed wife, doesn't hesitate to insist another woman to be a part of her husband's life because of course, his happiness after her death matters! The feudalism is so prevalent, no matter how much one paints it rosy with reasons such as concern and compassion.
Every romantic equation that Kalank boasts of, is half-baked. Aditya and Sonakshi, the made in heaven couple who are more than heartbroken about the latter's untimely departure, do not get any bit of their chemistry right. Alia and Varun's semi-blossomed love story is limited to occasional brush-offs of hands and encounters that do not take their romance ahead. It is rather Alia and Aditya's proximity that one would be curious about. The least expressive in the lot, Aditya also delivers a restrained and effective performance, giving us right clues about his inner storms. Rest of the crisis in Kalank are way too verbal and do not move you at all. Similar is the case with Madhuri Dixit and Sanjay Dutt's accidental intimacy that later takes a tragic shape.
Alia looks beautiful in her joy and gloom but acts just alright. Varun, also, wears an enviable physique but isn't a great match for a heartless playboy turned a hopeless lover.
Abhishek Varman might have wanted to infuse the necessary grandeur in his film but it all looks like a Sanjay Leela Bhansali rip-off, to put it briefly. The makers should have rather concentrated on creating more convincing situations and circumstances. So much of Kalank remains a film on paper!
Watch if you are a Varun-Alia fan who wouldn't mind sitting through three hours for a rather unmoving tale!