Kalank Movie Review: Almost 3 hours of tedium!

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I survived (Somehow). That’s all I can say after an excruciatingly painful watch and a tiring experience.

Kalank deserves a rap on the knuckles for the kind of restlessness it leads you into. Having sat through the first half-an-hour of the movie and endured the colossal boredom, I wasn’t surprised that I started going into the state of slumber. There’s a big announcement in a dramatic way as to who’s the father of one of the protagonists and who’s his mother as the film nears the intermission (Something that turns out to be a child’s play as you would have precisely predicted it much sooner than they actually reveal). And there’s some sort of romance building up in the midst of India-Pakistan partition issues that hardly move you. The biggest of all problems is that the screenplay is structured in the Indian soap opera style! I didn’t walk out of the cinema hall midway. I had made up my mind to check just how badly it all unfolds in the film.

The story is set in Lahore during the time when India was on the cusp of Independence from the British and the birth of Pakistan was on the cards. The film shows the glimpses of conflict between the followers of Hindu and Muslim religion which ultimately result in indiscriminate killings in the end. Director Abhishek Varman’s focus is more on the lives of a Hindu girl Roop (Alia Bhatt) and a Muslim guy Zafar (Varun Dhawan) and how this affects the people related to them.

Call it inspiration. Or, an attempt to use elements from hit films or even a TV series. This jejune film does have elements that make you hark back to some of the greatest films or series but that doesn’t work in its favour. Do you want a bit of Ridley Scott’s Gladiator sort of action? You got it! You see a strong and muscular Zafar involved in bullfighting. Be ready to witness one of the greatest CGI work in this sequence (pun intended). If you wanted to get a feel of that iconic “My heart will go on” sung by Celine Dion for Titanic or Ramin Djawadi’s haunting main title theme for Westworld, Kalank’s background score by Sanchit Balhara and Ankit Balhara gives you modified versions of the same. In fact, when the teaser of this film was released, film critic Raja Sen tweeted saying that it has ripped off the theme music from the TV series The Flash. And Bollywood also has its very own to look up to. So, you do get to recall Shah Rukh Khan’s famous train scene from Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge as Alia Bhatt, who has boarded the train, shouts out to Zafar and he runs to hold her hand in a dramatic fashion and get onboard. The more this film tries to make this film interesting, the more it plummets miserably.

Brace yourselves. Almost every lead actor has an “intro” song too. The unnecessary and not-going-well-with-the-mood-of-the-film songs were probably meant to give you a sigh of relief and give some respite from an otherwise stodgy collection of scenes in this film. But that doesn’t save the film either.  A ‘special’ mention to a song where Roop has turned up at the brothel of Bahaar Begum (Madhuri Dixit). Roop wants to take singing lessons from Bahaar Begum and actually starts singing to a great perfection along with her in the first meet itself (It looked like Roop did not really need singing lessons at all). Outside of this Brothel, Zafar hears the voice of Roop and is mesmerised. Zafar meets Roop on her way out and leaves an impression on her just like that! And there blossoms a romance (actually, tries to blossom).

Not only the relationship between Zafar and Roop fails to bloom, but the not-so-moving tale of Dev Chaudhry (Aditya Roy Kapur) and his ailing wife Satya (played by an affecting Sonakshi Sinha in her short stint) also does not go well.

A grim-faced Sanjay Dutt as Dev’s father is terrific but does not have much to do in this film.

Well, then what did I really like in this film? I got to know that Lahore city is known as Lohaaron Ka Sheher (City of blacksmiths) and this is how it got its name.

I survived (Somehow). That’s all I can say after an excruciatingly painful watch and a tiring experience.

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Gully Boy Movie Review: An intense drama with a musical feast that gives a sense of belief

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Spearheaded by Ranveer Singh’s breathtaking act, Gully Boy presents a strong narrative that has elements for you to identify yourself.

MC Sher (Siddhant Chaturvedi) says to Murad (Ranveer Singh), “Sab comfortable hote to rap kaun banata” (If everyone lived comfortably, rap would not have taken its birth). This thought reflects in the entire film. I watched the movie with such intensity that I started reminiscing instances from my own life and felt an astounding belief building up inside me as to “Yes, you can follow your passion and be great”. That’s the power of this film. No matter what field you are in and what destination you are heading to, Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy has such incredulous effect on us that we start believing that there is light at the end of the tunnel. As this film claims, it surely is a perfect “Shout-out” to the “real gully boys DIVINE and Naezy”. It is an intense story of a rap artist who fights his way out of his father’s supposed notion of them being a “naukar” (servant) and triumphs against all odds by following what he earnestly wanted in his life.

The very first thing you notice is the music, contributed by several musicians, which is ingrained in this film with such significance. The music plays a crucial role to exemplify the feelings of high-spiritedness, agony and despondency. For me, the best portrayal of music-exemplified emotions is a scene where Murad, while working as a driver, drives a woman home, who is in tears, and the Doori poem plays out in the background – Kehne ko hum paas hain par kitni doori hai, ye bhi kaisi majboori hai…Main ye behte aansu ponchu utni meri aukaat nahi (We are so close to each other yet so far…My status is not high enough to wipe off your tears).

Gully, in hindi, refers to the alley. Here, Gully Boy refers to Murad who lives in the ‘gullies’ of a slum in Mumbai. Early in the movie, some tourists from London visit this slum and are, apparently, excited as they exclaim “wow!” and click pictures. The tourist guide takes them, incidentally, to Murad’s house to show them the kind of toilet that they have in these houses (Funnily, Murad’s grandmother charges 500 for this). One of the tourist guys is wearing a t-shirt with a printed image of a hip-hop artist. Murad praises his t-shirt and to the utter surprise of that guy, Murad starts singing an English rap song sung by that artist. This scene assured that the film is in no way going the familiar poor-guy-becoming-rich way. Gully Boy is not at all clichéd. In fact, this scene is the first of many instances that show Murad’s inclination towards the hip-hop genre. Influenced by MC Sher (What a rip-roaring rendition by Siddhant Chaturvedi for this role), Murad joins him and starts writing verses and presents them to MC Sher. There is no heroic display of him suddenly doing so well. He, even, loses in the most embarrassing manner imaginable in a rap battle (It is so moving to see Murad when his opponent uses Murad’s poverty as the baseline for his defence as Murad keeps his head down and is mortified by what he just heard). It is this unhurried nature of Gully Boy that is so impressive. We are happy for it to be taking its time. As MC Sher insists Murad to bring out the “jwala” (lava or fire) inside him and face the world with intrepidity, we get energised as the film slowly depicts the rise of Murad or the Gully Boy (his stage name).

I am sure the film is going to strike the right chord when it comes to representing the lives of billions of people who are unable to pursue a career that they want. Murad, under the circumstances of his life, winds up working as a car driver and the growing pain inside him comes out in the form of a rap verse “Apna time aayega” (My time will come). Succumbing to the pressure of his parents, he starts working in an organisation through the influence of his uncle. He, even, indulged himself in stealing cars with his friend Moeen (Vijay Varma). While commuting in a train, he looks at the gloomy faces of fellow passengers going back to home after a drudging day of work. In another scene, Murad’s uncle praises him for choosing the right career and the next moment Murad looks at the clock and leaves for a rap battle audition. Zoya Akhtar has meticulously orchestrated the turn of events that illuminates how Murad gets on the right path eventually after a series of struggles.

Murad boards a bus and so does Safeena (Alia Bhatt has done an amazing job. Oh! What a performer!). They stare at each other every now and then. As soon as the person sitting next to Murad stands up and deboards the bus, Safeena occupies that seat. Just when we are about to think if this is an age-old trick of a boy-meeting-girl in a bus, Safeena and Murad hold each other’s hands. They are already in love for 9 years. So, the focus of the film remains intact as the narrative wastes no time in illustrating Murad’s love-life. Even though Alia Bhatt’s presence is transient, it is so lovely to see the portions that involved them courting. When their relationship comes to a standstill for a period of time due to Murad’s brief stint with Sky (Kalki Koechlin), he says, in a scene, that life without Safeena is like having spent a life without a childhood. This brief spell of romance portion has been moulded in such a beautiful way that their separation makes you feel sad.

It is not just the external forces that come in the way of Murad. He has to confront difficulties at home too. His conservative father (Vijay Raaz is stupendous in this character) remains mad at him. He has also married another lady and has brought her home which leads Murad’s mother (Amruta Subhash) into an enormous amount of desolation. It broke my heart to see Murad’s mother crying madly as he hugs her. Even Safeena explains to her parents that she lies to them because they won’t allow her to put on lipstick, go out with boys and have fun. Safeena’s mother (Sheeba Chaddha) shows some photographs of men and tells to Safeena, in a scene, that she is at least getting to choose a man to get married unlike her. These are the sort of hindrances that, not only Murad and Safeena, but a lot of us have to deal with to be able to attain something.

I had to endure a lot of those mandatory commercials that were played before the start of the movie. But as the movie ended and I left the cinema hall, I completely forgot about those tiring advertisements. Thanks to this stunning film! Spearheaded by Ranveer Singh’s breathtaking act, Gully Boy presents a strong narrative that has elements for you to identify yourself.