Movie review by
Rich Phippen, Common Sense Media
Kalank Movie Poster Image
Bollywood historical romance falls flat; some violence.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 166 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Forgiveness and redemption are key themes, but so are betrayal and revenge.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Most characters are flawed in some way. Zafar is set on revenge after being abandoned by his parents as a child following his father's affair with owner of a brothel. Women are depicted as being resolute, although marrying a man is a general life goal. Characters are either upper or lower class. Upper classes are shown to be rich and living extravagantly. 


One character receives minor injuries during a bull fight-style sequence. One character hits another hard in the face; the response is attempted strangling. A character is attacked by a group with sticks and swords -- a fight sequence ensues with stabbing, punching, a head-butting, and people being knocked out. A character is grabbed by the throat and nearly strangled. During a large-scale riot, numerous characters are beaten and stabbed. Someone is stabbed to death off-screen. A character has terminal cancer and subsequently dies.


Sex rarely occurs in Bollywood, so characters are shown in bed either before or after sex. On two occasions a man is shown shirtless, lying on top of a woman who is under a sheet. There are several brief kisses. One of the characters is an owner of a brothel.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Several characters smoke; the text "smoking kills" appears on-screen during those scenes. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Kalank is a Bollywood romantic movie -- with English subtitles -- that sticks rigidly to the Indian style of melodrama, combined with song, and dance routines. While there is little sex, there is much sexual tension between several characters. Characters are seen together in bed, suggesting that sex has or is about to take place: The man is shown shirtless. Violence is far more prevalent. In one sequence, a fight breaks out that involves several men being knocked out. During a large-scale riot, numerous stabbings, slashings, and punches take place -- one death occurs off-screen. A woman is grabbed by the throat and nearly strangled. Forgiveness and redemption are key themes, but there are few other positive messages, with most characters flawed. Women are generally depicted as being resolute, but there is a great emphasis on their need to marry. The running time is just short of three hours, which may test some people's patience.

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What's the story?

Set in pre-independence India, KALANK tells the story of Roop (Alia Bhatt), who agrees to marry the husband of her dying friend, Satya (Sonakshi Sinha). Roop's relationship and subsequent marriage to Dev (Aditya Kapur) is strained, not least because Dev's illegitimate half-brother, Zafar (Varun Dhawan), sets his sights on disrupting the lives of both Dev and their father.

Is it any good?

This Bollywood movie is a big-budget affair and -- one questionable CGI bull aside -- is beautifully shot with a grand sense of scale. The key hook of the story -- a woman befriending her friend's husband in order to marry him after her friend dies -- is culturally very different from how it might play in a movie from the West. As a result, it can feel a little off-kilter for Western audiences. But thanks to a strong cast, for the most part, it plays out convincingly. There is a touch too much slow-motion -- albeit fitting for the melodramatic tone -- and the derivative soundtrack features a motif lifted directly from Titanic that plays relentlessly throughout the movie.

The historical backdrop of pre-independence India and the civil unrest that ensues might entice some viewers to dip their toe into a movie industry that they are unfamiliar with. Unfortunately Kalank is unlikely to win them over, nor is it likely to entertain audiences already familiar with Bollywood. Ultimately, this is a movie with grand aims, but it overstays its welcome -- its runtime is 166 minutes -- and begins to feel like a parody by the end. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the cultural differences between what's depicted in Kalank and life in the West. How did you feel about Roop and Dev's marriage arrangement? What other cultural differences did you notice in the movie?

  • Talk about the violence in the movie. Did it feel necessary to the story?

  • Discuss the character of Zafar. Could you understand why he was angry at his parents? Did you have any sympathy with him? How might he have dealt with issues better?

  • Talk about the civil unrest in the movie. What does the movie tell us about the history of India?

  • Discuss Bollywood movies in general. What characteristics do most Bollywood movies share? How are they different from American movies? How do you think this movie would be different if it had been made in the United States?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love Bollywood

Themes & Topics

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