Sunday, March 11, 2012

Kahaani - What a Story!

Hindi films in the past have not been known for its mysteries. Blatantly making half baked copies from Hollywood cinema or sometimes looking to East Asian countries for inspiration, original plots have not been explored for decades in this terrain till a movie like 'Kahaani' arrives to change all that and how. Sujoy Ghosh, who debuted with the thoroughly enjoyable 'Jhankaar Beats' before meandering to commercially viable fluff, has regained his soul to craft a gripping story of a heavily pregnant woman landing in the city of Joy, Kolkata, in search of her missing husband. And in that lies a tale.

A chillingly crafted sequence of a biochemical gas attack in the busy Kolkata Metro sets off a chain of events when 2 years later Vidya Vekatesan Bagchi (Vidya Balan in her usual fine form) emerges from the Kolkata airport, to hail a cab to the police station and file a missing person report of her husband, Arnab Bagchi. Having come on an assignment for the National Data Centre(NDC) from their London home, he has disappeared into thin air such that the rundown guest house he stayed in has no evidence of his stay and neither does NDC own up to any employee of that name. However, the lone photograph of Arnab's that Vidya carries, points to a strong resemblance with a former NDC employee, Milan Dhamji. The case starts getting murky when the HR lady at NDC who points to the resemblance, is bumped off and the Intelligence Bureau get involved. From here, its a joyride of twists and turns with moles in government agencies, contract killings, dual identities, suspect motives. Nothing is as it seems as we race with Vidya on her dangerous mission.

Amidst the chills the plot keeps throwing at us, what stands out are the performances of an extremely competent cast, for most of whom Hindi movies is virgin territory. Predominantly Bengali actors rule as they get the nuances of their characters pat with the language, the expressions, the mannerisms. Parambrata Chattopadhyay's Rana as the mild mannered, infatuated rookie sub inspector is the perfect foil to Vidya's fearless, headstrong woman on a quest act. Together they ignite the search with equal amounts of urgency and sweet relief. Nawazuddin Siddiqui's short tempered, foul mouthed bureau officer Khan who regards a couple of human lives lost as collateral damage in the the larger scheme, is pitch perfect. Especially worthy of mention is the seemingly bumbling, mild insurance agent Bob Biswas (Saswata Chatterjee) who greets with a smile and moonlights as a contract killer. Positively chilling! Apart from these supporting acts, the police officer at the local station who says 'in Kolkata Vidya, Bidya all is same' loving pointing the inability of bengalis to pronounce the alphabet V, the zero star hotel owner, the little boy who runs with hot water at the beck of the hotel guests are all memorable.

But carrying the movie on her very pregnant gait, is Vidya Balan, a consistently fine performer who improves with each role. The recent National award winner, the last legitimate film awards in India, brings to her character a mix of dogged determination, vulnerability, strength and motherhood all culminating to a fascinating climax where the layers are peeled and Durga (the Hindu Bengali mother Goddess) is revealed. Take a bow, Vidya. She safely joins the annals of fine female performers like Smita Patil, Shabana Azmi, Tabu and their likes. The other hero of the movie has to be Kolkata, the city that is captured in all its hues. The goodness of the locals to the spine chilling of the bylanes and dilapidating buildings, the lit Howrah bridge, kumartuli idol makers and the joyous burst of the celebration of Durga Puja all come alive under the extremely able cinematography of Setu. Sharp editing by Namarata Rao keeps the movie running at nail biting pace.

And 'the mother of stories' indeed has a fine tale to tell. Scripted meticulously by Advaita Kala and Sujoy Ghosh, the movie is akin to reading a layered mystery where the audience is always running to catch up to the author's game and when the explosive climax occurs, the steps are traced back and we are all too happy to have been outsmarted. 'Kahaani' is the finest original thriller/mystery to have come out of the Hindi film industry since the black and white/ early color era of chills that Hindi cinema had mastered with 'Woh Kaun Thi', 'Teesri Manzil', 'Bees Saal Baad' and 'Mera Saaya' to name a few. After decades we are back in business with Kahaani. This atmospheric mystery indeed stands tall in the tale it renders.  

Originally Released in 2012
Running in theatres
In Hindi with English subtitles
My rating:4.5/5


  1. Sudipta, I still believe there is quite a bit of likeness to "Rendition". The central character is almost 6-7+ months pregnant, looking for her husband who has suddenly disappeared and no one knows who he is or has seen him. Everything she knew about the man turns out to be a dead end...

    the similarities do not end there... in both movies there is one person who believes and helps the woman in her quest(in Kahaani - it's the cop and in Rendition it's Peter Saarsgard who is Senetor's aide)

    Yes... they turned around the story towards the end where they show that Vidya Balan's character is an intelligence operative herself

    but one cannot say that there are not enough similarities/likeness to Rendition

    As always, it's a pleasure to read your review

    1. Hello, Is that you Vikas? If so, Hi:) If not, thanks for taking the time to read my review. And do keep reading:)

      I do agree rendition and Kahaani have the same 7 month pregnant woman looking for her missing husband scenario as well as the aide helping her. That is where the similarities totally end. It cannot, in my opinion, after watching the film in its entirety, be said to be inspired by rendition as the two movies charter totally different territories. If you have not seen Kahaani, I will not give away two vital points that eventually take away from the similarities the two movies share. If anything, I found it an homage to movies like 'Usual Suspects' or 'A wednesday'.

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