Kalank Review (SPOILERS): First Love is True Love is Only Love

What an interesting love quadrangle! I really really like the central set-up concept for this film, and kind of wish it could have been moved out of pre-partition India and into a regular rom-com setting. And really, if you like romances, you should watch it. Don’t spoil yourself! Read my no spoiler review instead.

Whole plot in two sections:

The relationship angst and the political angst are each so strong that they could kind of be their own movies. So instead of confusing myself by mixing them up in the description, I am going to separate them into their own summaries.

Relationship drama:

Sonakshi is dying. Before she dies, she wants to find a good second wife for her husband. Alia is an educated girl from a poor family. Sonakshi offers to forgive her debts and pay for her sisters’ weddings if she will come live in their house while Sonakshi waits to die and get to know Aditya. Alia is the one who insists on marriage, even before Sonakshi’s death, because she wants to have a safe position in the household. Meanwhile, Varun is a blacksmith who meets Alia when she comes to the bad neighborhood to take singing lessons from Madhuri. Alia is also working at Aditya’s newspaper to get to know him better, and she decides she wants to write an article on the poor neighborhood. Varun offers to be her guide and they slowly fall in love. Until Madhuri confronts Varun and asks him to stop what he is doing, because Varun is Madhuri and Sanjay’s illegitimate son and Aditya’s illegitimate brother. Varun reveals that he is burning for revenge, he has been trying to seduce Alia in order to destroy his father’s family because Sanjay rejected him, and he won’t listen to Madhuri because she rejected him too (she regrets it now, but it’s too late). But Alia slowly wears him down. When she comes to him and offers her love, he turns her away because he is no good for her, he has learned to love her enough to care for her security. Meanwhile, Sonakshi has died and Aditya is sunk into depression because she was his one true love. He goes out drinking and coincidentally meets Varun. Varun and Aditya bond, and the truth is revealed when Alia comes to take Aditya home. Sanjay also learns the truth and goes to Madhuri to ask her to stop Varun from ruining all their lives. Varun finds them together, Sanjay insults him, and then changes course and begs him to do the right thing and leave Alia alone. Varun storms out, but Madhuri is convinced. She goes to see Alia and tells her that Varun was just using her. Alia, heartbroken, goes to Aditya and asks to have sex. The next day she admits to Aditya that she was in love with someone else after marriage but now she wants to try to make this work. And then the political stuff comes to boil.

Image result for alia aditya kalank

Political/historical stuff

Along with seducing Alia, Varun has been trying to ruin Sanjay and Aditya politically. He has cleverly been controlling, without seeming to care about it, the political agenda of his good friend Kunal Khemu. They are both blacksmiths and the blacksmiths are angry about a new steel factory coming to town which Aditya’s newspaper is supporting. Their religion is mixed up in this as the wealthy class of the city, the ones who would benefit from the new factory, are Hindu and the working class tends to be Muslim. Aditya is focused on the future of India and thinks that a new modern factory will help them succeed independently from Britain. The blacksmiths are concerned that they will lose their livelihoods and their community. Both sides are right, in their own way. And Aditya’s focus on an independent united India gets goes against the wish for a strong (socialist) Pakistan where the Muslim workers will be respected. But Kunal starts to question Varun’s loyalty when he sees him dancing with Aditya (not knowing that Kunal doesn’t know this is the newspaper editor who has been printing the articles against their union). He orders goons to beat him up, hoping Varun will think it was Aditya who did it. And then he challenges Varun to come with him and attack Alia and their mansion. Varun refuses and begs him to let this go, admits it was all personal for him but now he has let go of his hatred for Sanjay and Aditya. Kunal is furious, he cares about all of these things and hates Varun for letting it go. He rushes out, and Varun rushes to Alia’s house and admits his love and then drags her out ahead of the mob. They arrive at Aditya’s newspaper office just in time to save him from a mob lead by Kunal. The three of them, united, fight their way to Madhuri’s house for safety, but she turns them away, says that they will not be safe even here because the mob is searching houses. And she will not leave with them, because she has to stay and protect her Hindu sex workers. They go to the train station instead and Varun offers to hold off the mob so Alia and Aditya can escape because they are “his people” and will not hurt him. Alia and Aditya get on the train, Varun runs after, but at the last minute Kunal stabs him and he dies looking at Alia. 10 years later, Alia and Aditya are living in Amritsar and running another newspaper and tell their story to a reporter. They are both still grieving their lost loves, but tentatively united. The last line, the message of the movie, is Alia challenging the audience to remember the love, not the hate.

Image result for alia kalank

The historical stuff isn’t terrible, but the relationship stuff is more original. I really like the relationship twist of Alia forcing her own self into this marriage, only to end up with a nice husband who doesn’t love her and falling in love herself with someone else. It would be like if Rani guilted Kajol into marrying Shahrukh in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, only for Kajol to end up falling in love with Salman after the wedding. I could see a modern rom-com with a similar spunky small town girl who is pressured into meeting with a married man in return for money at the behest of his dying wife, and she instead insists on a marriage, only to fall in love with someone after the marriage. Although I would also need a little more clarity even in my remake on why Alia was so angry about this marriage when she is the one who made it happen. Sonakshi wasn’t even threatening their family, just offering more money. And would it really have been that awful for Alia to stay at their house for a while and get to know Aditya before deciding to marry him? That was just a script failure. Sonakshi has to be saintly but Alia is acting like she is pressured, maybe they needed a third character like Sanjay to come in and be the threatening person without Sonakshi knowing about it?

On the historical side, I like the narrow secular line Karan follows with this plot. One small thing, there is almost no Muslim on Hindu violence shown. Varun is beaten up, and Aditya’s managing editor who is also Muslim is brutally killed. And then Varun is killed as well. There are so many films that delight in orgies of images of ravaging Muslim hordes carrying off Hindu woman, this movie avoids those images. Plus, I love the way it shows the class/money aspect to communalism. We even see Varun be angry with a wealthy Hindu merchant who refuses to buy swords from him because he is Muslim, a little microcasm of why the lower class struggling Muslim community resents the entrenched wealthy Hindu class.

We also see the Hindus and Muslims of the neighborhood celebrate both Diwali and Eid together.

But yes, all of it could be better. It’s perfectly fine and very entertaining and all of that. But there were a few sections in the second half that just dragged, really needed to tighten it up there. The performances were a little hit and miss, Sonakshi was lovely and heartbreaking, but Alia went between being confident and intelligent and emotional and impulsive and just came off as “spoiled” some of the time. Madhuri didn’t have that spark I was looking for from her role. Sanjay was kind of dull too.

The biggest problem is, the Alia and Aditya relationship is too strong. There were delightful little moments showing Alia and Aditya slowing coming together. He is impressed by her intelligence at the office, she appreciates his kindness and honesty. With the way Alia comes off onscreen, her burning intelligence feels like a better fit with Aditya’s calm than with Varun’s sexy “let me take my shirt off constantly” kind of vibe. Sonakshi was right, it appears, to bring Alia into the household. Alia and Aditya make love towards the end of the film, and it is a real love scene, softly lit and gentle feeling. There is a real tension between whether Alia will choose her kind faultless husband, or the troubled dangerous sexy Varun. And then Varun dies and we jump forward 10 years to find Alia and Aditya living separate lives, no children, no light in their house (literally no light, all dark versus their nice white house in Lahore). It would have made more sense to see them with a kind of calm loving understanding, and perhaps a child named for Varun. The choice to show both of them still sunk in depression retroactively cheapens the sacrifices of both Sonakshi and Varun for their happiness, plus doesn’t even make sense based on the sweet slowly building relationship we saw between them.

Oh, and it is also a terrible message for young people. Teenage Girls of India! When Madhuri says “Is ‘nice’ enough to make you happy for the rest of your life?” the answer is “Yes! Yes nice is enough!” Your only chance for happiness is not, in fact, the sexy bad boy who constantly insults you and takes you to dangerous places. It might be the guy who wears glasses to read books in bed and has only had sex with one woman before you and leaves his shirt on until you ask him to take it off, at which point he reveals a shockingly good natural torso. What I am saying, Teenage Girls of India, is that maybe it is okay to get over the dangerous bad boy and move on and have sex again with your hot husband. At least at some point in the 10 years you have been living together.

Actually, all of the love stories are twisted and terrible! Madhuri explains that she had Varun thinking it would keep Sanjay with her, but then Sanjay was ashamed of his love child so she dumped Varun in the street so Sanjay would stick around. That didn’t work either, so she went looking for Varun claiming that she loved him to which he said (justifiably, I think), “suck it Mom, you abandoned a small child in the streets in order to please your married boyfriend, I owe you nothing”. Sanjay explains that he resented being forced to marry without love, so he went looking for love with Madhuri, but was ashamed of her and left her, and yet still resented his wife for not being her. Sonakshi and Aditya are sweet and perfect, got married at 18 and loved only each other. But Sonakshi is forcing him into a new relationship against his choice, and he is falling in love at least a little bit with Alia before Sonakshi is dead which hurts Sonakshi even though she brought it on herself.

I like that the film is clear on what marriage does and doesn’t mean, there is no real judgement on Alia and Varun for falling in love just because she married a stranger. But I don’t like that the only form of love which seems to be real according to this film is mad passionate love at first sight. Aditya and Alia can never really grow to love each other, Madhuri could never get over Sanjay, and on and on. And instead of blaming them for being so selfish in their own emotions, the film honors them as noble and pure and better than the unfeeling folks who haven’t experienced this kind of love.

There’s also no judgement on Kiara or Madhuri for being courtesans. Kiara is a sympathetic character, worries about Varun and Alia’s love story. And at the end, it is for the Hindu courtesans like Kiara that Madhuri stays in Lahore, choosing to protect them over her son. That’s a nice message! Sex workers are people with value.

But, on the other hand, there is that ending. The whole message of the film is to honor all these love stories, Sanjay and Madhuri, Alia and Varun, Sonakshi and Aditya, to remember those good beautiful moments and forget the ugliness and hatred that came after. I can get behind that, that’s a message that has value. Even if it is wrapped up in a smaller message of First Love=True Love=Only Love.


35 thoughts on “Kalank Review (SPOILERS): First Love is True Love is Only Love

  1. I am conflicted with the movie…the central love quadrangle is really interesting and I enjoyed the whole splendour…but it just didn’t draw me in…I wasn’t able to root for Alia-Varun…not sure if the flaw was in the writing, casting or the direction…it just seemed a little lacking…
    Maybe the tonal inconsistency threw me off…it wants to be operatic with massive sets and lofty dialogues but then also wants to be masala with songs like “first-class”…it just didn’t want to commit to one vision…
    But what truly made me angry was the edit of Tabah Ho Gaye…chopping up Madhuri’s dance is sacrilege!


    • I found myself rooting for Alia-Aditya far more. Maybe it’s that Alia-Varun just aren’t charming enough? Their characters are doing wrong things, and Aditya is perfect, so I was rooting for the good person and not the bad people. They should have either cast more instantly charming actors (Sara Ali Khan pulled off a similarly grey character in Kedarnath and kept rooting for her), or written Aditya to be less good and Varun less bad.

      I feel like the Masala was an easier fit and was more of a fit, and the sets and dialogue were Karan trying to be commercial and popular. If he’d just trusted the story and the fun of it and not tried to make it into a Big Film, it would have turned out better.

      And I am so glad someone else saw it already so I have someone to talk to!


      • Can we also take a moment to laugh at the bad CGI bull…why? That scene wasn’t even necessary…but at least do it right if at all…


        • Yes! And the scene made no sense either. We never even find out what Varun “won” that made it so worthwhile to risk his life. Beyond the whole “wait, there are secret underground bull fights going on in a valley in the middle of nowhere?” illogic.


          • Not only unecessary, I think they shot themselfs in the foot with this scene. The bull was in the internet before official reviews came out. I would think twice before spending money on such bad made movie.


          • Yeah, and the old school non-CGI stuff is actually really spectacular. The full version of the Ram-Leela song is amazing, they should have released it instead of the chopped up trailer, that would have gotten people in. And minimal CGI I think, just a lot of really good dancers and complicated camerawork.


  2. The whole movie was filled with illogical moments that made me chuckle…like when Madhuri wants to cry she makes it all the way back home walks to the center of the room then falls perfectly positioned with the floor pattern…should I empathize with her plight or laugh at the blatant staging??


    • It’s Madhuri’s dancing girls that kill me. They are just always there! Dancing in the background!!! Plus that woman with the very odd large stringed instrument. What are there lives like? Does Madhuri pay them to just hang out and be beautiful?


    • I haven’t seen the movie but this description of Madhuri’s crying instantly reminded me of Hindi movie heroines in the 70s and 80s running through the house and then falling on their bed to cry. The bed spread would always have some kind of concentric or circular pattern so that their face would be in the center of the pattern. Growing up, we had a bedspread with a similar pattern and my siblings and I used to always joke about how we would fall weeping on it. For some reason, I always picture Munmun Sen when I think of this sort of crying.


      • Yes! That’s exactly what it was like! Except she was crying on a stone floor instead of a bed, and she must have traveled miles without crying before she got there.

        On Thu, Apr 18, 2019 at 10:09 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  3. Wait so they actually spent time building up the Alia-Aditya relationship but never had them be happy at the end? That’s awful. From the trailer I was kind of rooting for them. Even more important, was that giant lit chandelier only in that one song or was it in every scene?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was in EVERY SCENE!!!! Madhuri’s house is a big fancy dance floor, a fountain, and an enormous floor to ceiling chandelier. No furniture, no closets (no idea where she stored all her clothes and jewelry), no food either. I guess when you have a chandelier, you don’t need for anything else.


  4. I went to see the film today because it’s the last day of showings in my local cinema (+ it was my cousins first time in a cinema and i figured bollywood is a good first time), and I did actually really enjoy it. There are illogical parts throughout, and I definitely saw the Madhuri as Varun’s mum thing coming a mile off but it was still enjoyable. My interpretation of the bull scene was just that, Varun maybe wanted to test her? to show her this side of town and go ‘this is what I do on the side, could you handle everything else?’
    What I’m definitely glad about though, is that neither of the guys are stereotypically ‘evil’, they’re both good for Alia for different reasons and I liked that they weren’t pitted against each other, even when Aditya figures out Varun is the guy Alia loves. I think the ending could have worked better if it just showed them moving into the new house together, and sharing that look, coupled with the voiceover that said their grief/trauma bought them closer than anything else would have, because I think that’s an interesting way to look at it, and suggests they’re at peace with each other. I do wish that we could have seen more of the Alia from the beginning of the film throughout it because in certain parts it just felt weirdly…empty? Which I guess is a reflection of her feeling ‘trapped’ but still.


    • Oh I forgot! I enjoyed Madhuri’s dance much more when it was put within the context of the film, but mostly because of how it shifted between scenes. I think it’s actually one of my favourite sequences, with Varun running to talk to Alia, and Alia consummating her marriage with Aditya, and then the balcony sequence, it just…worked


      • I agree! I forgot the dance was part of that, I just remembered Varun running intercut with Alia consummating the marriage, this feeling of them both going through different but similar powerful experiences at the same time.


    • Yes, I really liked that Varun and Aditya were both good guys! I was sincerely rooting for both of them for most of the film. And when they discovered they both loved Alia, there was no stupid fight or jealousy, they just accepted it. Even when they learned they were brothers, Varun went from hating him to loving him very quickly and Aditya was ready to love him all along.

      I agree about that “empty” feel. We see her at the newspaper office but never really get a sense of her job. I don’t know how much time was passing when she was getting to know Varun, and we don’t really see her settle into the household either. Somehow Aditya ended up feeling like the fullest character to me, we saw him at work, expressing his political passions, talking to his father, talking to Sonakshi, I think I could understand what he did and thought all day every day.


      • Not just that, but the scenes where she’s giving the interview, there was no emotion there and it took me out of the story a little, to be honest. And yes about Aditya! There’s this scene on the train when he’s holding Alia and she starts calling out Zafar’s name and it cut to his expression and it took me a second to realise he wasn’t reacting to the way she called for Varun & clearly loved him, but realising that Zafar was the name of his brother Sanjay told him of and he was losing him before he even properly knew him, it was amazing.
        With the way this type of love story goes, I fully expected Varun and Aditya to come to blows, and I was pleasantly surprised to see it not go in that direction. Especially since I sort of expected Aditya’s character to be someone like Aishwarya’s husband in Devdas who Alia wanted to escape from.


        • Yes! I forgot about that moment! It really is a love triangle, Alia loves both men and vice versa, but the brothers also love each other in their own way. I don’t know how they could have pulled it off, but I would have loved for all three of them to escape to India and still be together and loving each other at the end. Maybe Aditya gives Alia a divorce and she marries Varun, but they still all share a house? Or the simplest answer, maybe Aditya or Varun die but Alia is pregnant with their child and the other one raises it with her. Would have helped liven up Alia in the interview scenes too, if she was juggling a 10 year old.


  5. Alia came off as a brat in this movie except for the end maybe. I really thought she was miscast, and Varun too. This probably needed someone like Emraan during Once Upon A time. The scenes with Varun-Alia were the weakest, they looked like two millennials hanging out. Alia goign to Heera Mandi as and when she pleased looked pretty far fetched. Achint Kaur was following her around initially, but conveniently moved away. Also Sanjay Dutt was so absent the whole time except in the scene with Madhuri. Sonakshi was lovely!
    ARK -Sonakshi and Kunal Khemu were the best thing about the movie. Didn’t think ARK could pull off such a serious role but his height and voice really added to the role.


    • Oh, Emraan would have been perfect! Dangerous, odd, but charismatic and you can’t look away from him. That is, present day or OUATIM Emraan. When he was starting out, he didn’t have any of that. Varun is growing with every role, but he just doesn’t have the experience yet to pull off a part as difficult as this. I feel like Karan was counting on the Alia-Varun chemistry too much to pull this off. They have chemistry, that first meeting moment is great, but once they started living within their characters, it all went wrong.

      Glad I’m not the only one who noticed ARK and Sonakshi in this film! Sonakshi was good in Ittefaq too (I thought). I hope she starts getting more serious dramatic kind of roles because she can play them beautifully. And I always want good things for Aditya!

      On Fri, Apr 19, 2019 at 3:38 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  6. The film had potential but terrible script writing and direction ruined it. One interesting that I found was the dialogue “this relationship has respect and not love”; it turned out to be true in the sense that Roop had respect in the society due to Dev but no love in her relationship. Zafar was her missing piece; she felt she had love in her life. When she had them both, she had both respect and love. After Zafar is killed, she has only respect left in her life which has been symbolized by the ending…. that dev and roop are living with respect and no “love” (no Zafar). The ending could have been better. I actually wanted Roop and Zafar to end up together because this way at least one love story could have survived. Dev could have given Roop the opportunity to experience love and would have made sense if he sacrificed himself instead of Zafar. This way the ending where we see Dev with Satya would have made a little more sense and would have united them in the afterlife.


    • Oh, I like that idea! Seeing Aditya and Sonakshi united together in heaven, and perhaps also Sanjay and Madhuri (I wouldn’t mind if Sanjay chose to stay back and protect Madhuri as his atonement). That would be lovely, everyone sacrificing for love, and giving Alia and Varun the happy ending their pure love deserves.

      I think the movie could have been saved by either excellent direction or an excellent script. 2 States had a great script and he handled it well. Looks like the scriptwriter also worked on Fanaa and KANK, which had similarly complex love triangles. But in that case, strong directors made it work well.


      • That would have been great idea! Aditya sacrificing himself to give Varun and Alia their own happy ending while also reuniting with Sonakshi.

        Oh wow, I got so many KANK vibes while watching Kalank. I didn’t know the same writer worked on both movies.


  7. Sorry I wasn’t around but I ended up seeing Kalank twice during the opening weekend and I definitely enjoyed watching it more the second time compared to the first time. I wouldn’t say that Kalank is a great movie but I thought it was good enough. I can definitely see myself watching it again in the future multiple times. I think Kalank is the most positive I felt about a Varun movie walking out of the theater since Badrinath.

    I do wish they spent more time on the Varun-Alia relationship. If they were trying to sell it to us as a great love then they needed to spend more time showing them fall in love. I felt like there were only a couple of scenes and a montage song.

    I still don’t understand what the purpose of the bull fighting scene was.

    One thing that I did appreciate was the soundtrack. I didn’t think much of the songs at home but I loved most of them in the actual movie.

    Now looking at the movie, I don’t see how Sridevi was supposed to play Madhuri’s role.


    • Yes, not a great movie, but good. And they could have easily cut the bull fighting scene and given us more love scenes!

      Agree about the soundtrack, they worked far better in context than without it.

      I could see Sridevi for most of it, but that Sanjay scene was so layered with their past, and the chemistry between them, I just can’t imagine anyone else playing it.


      • Right! I can’t imagine anyone but Madhuri playing the role as well.

        By the way, was it just me or did Alia remind you of Aishwarya Rai in this movie?

        After seeing the scenes where Varun and Aditya bond, they reminded me of some of Varun and Sid’s scenes in SOTY. I thought it would have been really interesting if they cast Sid in that role rather than Aditya.


  8. Didn’t end up watching the movie, like I wanted to, so thank you for the review! Interesting that everyone was semi right about the plot from the trailers but there were still enough twists to make it worth watching.

    Probably catch it on Netflix when it shows up there; the most interesting part of the movie from your review is the Aditya and Sonakshi relationship and character arcs. I love love stories where both people genuinely love each other and then it turns tragic!

    I’m not alone in liking Sonakshi yayy! I thought she was great in Ittefaq and always want to get around to seeing Lootera; I think period dramas suit her.


    • I think Sonakshi is way better than she gets credit for, and has had a lot of bad luck. I loved her in Akira, but somehow that movie didn’t hit. Noor was just terribly directed, so that didn’t work for no fault of Sonakshi’s. And all of her sudden her career went from high gear to low gear just as (I think) her performances are getting better and better.

      On Sun, May 12, 2019 at 9:23 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

  9. Excellent review..wanted happy ending so not interested in watching the movie.was obsessed with kalank for few days,but after reading the review, im over my obsession.


    • I wanted a happy ending too! Not necessarily Alia and Varun together, but some hope that Alia could find a new start with Aditya.


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