Dharma productions latest venture, Kalank, released in cinemas on 17th April 2019. This decadent period drama is set in a pre-independent India and centralises around six characters.
The film sets out with the premise to tackle the issue of love and morality. Kalank is an aesthetic dream, it's vibrant visuals, and stunning cast set the stage for a traditional Bollywood tale of love and destruction.
With Dharma involved, star power is always ensured and this Abhishek Varman directorial features many distinguished actors within its cast.
Senior actors Sanjay Dutt and Madhuri Dixit are seen starring on-screen together for the first time in 25 years. Madhuri's performance as a retired courtesan, Bahaar Begum, is a real joy to witness, with her to her fluid and faultless dancing. However, her character itself seems underdeveloped and stifled amidst the many layers to this rather over-complicated script.
Sanjay Dutt was earmarked in the trailer as a melancholy yet powerful presence as the patriarch of the Chaudhry family with his character, Balraj Chaudhry. However, there was minimal screentime for Sanjay which indeed was a shame.
Audiences flocked to witness these two powerful actors command the silver screen once more, however with only one scene shared; this too failed to meet expectations. Their one shared scene was emotive and intense, but it would have been more worthwhile for fans to see more of these experienced actors.
Roop (Alia Bhatt) is trapped in a loveless marriage to Dev Chaudhry (Aditya Roy Kapur), she reconciles herself to a life without love; that is until she meets Zafar (Varun Dhawan).
Varun brings a loveable charm and energy to the screen; however, his chemistry with Alia falls flat. For a film which presented itself as a story of love and defiance, the script and its characters were rather placid.
Kalank has an air of 90s Bollywood to it, with elements of melodrama and fatalistic fate within its storytelling.
Kalank revolves around complex relationships and forbidden love, while also tracking the partition between India and Pakistan.
With such substantial issues being covered the concern could be that the film is too severe, but sequences between the characters provide a much-needed lift.
We particularly enjoyed the tête-à-têtes between Madhuri and Alia's characters, Madhuri lives a life as an ill-reputed courtesan (Bahaar Begum) who now teaches music.
However, Madhuri brings wisdom and grace to this character of Bahaar Begum, who has been refined through her pain, and this translates to the audience.
It is visible that Alia's character, Roop, seeks guidance and it is from this chance union that all the drama unfolds.
Sonakshi Sinha is the mirror of truth within Kalank with her role as Satya, the first wife of Dev Chaudhry (Aditya Roy Kapur).
She is aware she has a life-threatening illness, and she unconventionally marries her husband to Roop (Alia Bhatt) as a means of ensuring her husband's happiness.
Sonakshi is effortless in this role as the devoted and selfless wife, her interactions with Sanjay Dutt (Balraj Chaudhry) and Aditya Roy Kapur are endearing.
She provides a doe-like innocence amongst all the betrayal, lies and sin within the world of Kalank. The film would have benefitted from providing more screen-time to these two stars who truly shone within this multi-starrer.
Kalank is a traditional tale of love presented in an opulent and slightly overly-extravagant way, while the actors all shine in moments of the film; the length of the actual feature does drag.
Kalank could have been condensed somewhat more to make the narrative more impactful. The scripting also would have benefitted from more time and development.
A masterful actress such as Alia Bhatt was restricted to the confines of a rather one-dimensional character with Roop. Within the film, there are glimpses of conflicts such as her own moral quandaries over love, family and education which could have been explored, but were not.
With such an accolade of talent to its name, Kalank failed to deliver a script and overall edit which lived up to the star cast's previously praised performances.
Kalank delivered when examining the grandeur and scale of period films, but lacked any depth to characterisation and script.
Kalank is now on general release in the UK.