Mumbai: A mute splendour swathes every self-consciously pretty frame of Abhishek Varmans purported epic "Kalank". I've never seen a trailer more eager to find acceptance as an epic. There is a note of high anxiety in every frame.
Yes, this is producer Karan Johar's tribute to the cinema of Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Got that. Although why the need to honour Bhansali's cinema when Bhansali is very active, beats all rational explanation. It's like Kamal Amrohi remaking "Mughal-e-Azam" instead of "Pakeezah".
But then the 'junoon' to equal, if not outdistance, India's only operatic creator kicks in. And what we see are dancing houries and mythological figures blobbing around, a blinding blizzard of Mughal art and Hindi calendar images that together constitute the most kaleidoscopic kitsch we've seen in commercial Hindi cinema.
But here is the thing. While the lavish and luscious images of impassioned love and thwarted passion come naturally to Bhansali, in "Kalank" they look forced, unreal and unconvincing. Except for Alia Bhatt, who would be at home even if she is out on a boat in the middle of the Amazon with only crocodiles for company, the rest of the cast looks like it could do with a shot of vodka. Neat.
Everyone needs to breathe easy in the trailer of "Kalank". But the plot relentlessly pressurizes them to remain on tenterhooks. The plot, for all it is worth, has a wondrously wooden Aditya Roy Kapur married to a beautiful statuesque Sonakshi Sinha who decides, for reasons best known to the script writers, to marry off her husband to Alia Bhatt, who clearly has the hots for Varun Dhawan.
Varun preens and postures and throws cheesy come-hither lines to Alia, while Sanjay Dutt does what he knows best. He issues a veiled threat to Varun.
As for Madhuri Dixit Nene, I think she just decided to come along because the role here seems like an extension of what she did in Bhansali's "Devdas". Those dreamy Chandramukhi looks could mean one of two things. Madhuri is either still in character. Or she is just wondering if her boys have had their dinner.
Everyone looks pained, hurt, wounded and angry in "Kalank". Maybe it's to do with the detachable papier-mache props which threaten to fall on whoever passes by.