Director: Sujoy Ghosh
Cast: Vidya Balan, Parambrata Chatterjee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui
Synopsis: Vidya Bagchi arrives in Kolkata from London to find her missing husband. Seven months pregnant and alone in a festive city, she begins a relentless search for her husband. With nothing to rely on except fragments from her memories about him, all clues seem to reach a dead end when everyone tries to convince Vidya that her husband does not exist. She slowly realises that nothing is what it seems. In a city soaked in lies, Vidya is determined to unravel the truth about her husband.
Review: The very landscape of Indian cinema is going through a transition period of sorts. In the past few years, not only have the audiences accepted the fact that a heroine can run the show all by herself, but they have also learnt to look forward to it. Right at the centre of this renaissance in Indian film, is our very own ‘Ooh La La’ girl, Vidya Balan. Proving time and time again that her bankability as a lead actor can evoke envy amongst most male leads in the industry. Be it the manipulative vixen in The Dirty Picture. Or the meek and timid women in Paa and No One Killed Jessica, Miss Balan has come to personify and redefine the word ‘versatility’. Gone are the days when Hindi cinema was only male-centric.
That being said, Kahaani is several notches above the run-off-the-mill hindi movie. The twists and turns in this sophisticated thriller are magnificently woven into the narrative by Director Sujoy Ghosh (Jhankaar Beats). Vidya Bagchi (Balan) is a pregnant software developer from London who arrives in Kolkata in search of her missing husband. The ensuing narrative involving loud and eccentric Bengali individuals, cops with a conscience, seedy government conspiracies and life insurance agents that moonlight as contract killers is indeed gripping.
You have a to-be mother who is driven to a point where she is willing to challenge the system in order to find her husband. In the process, she has to fend off an entourage of male chauvinists who try their best to convince her that the father of her child never actually came to their city. More so, there seems to be no evidence that any such entity ever existed. The premise is definitely one that immediately catches your attention. One woman’s pursuit of truth in the grim alleys and gloomy streets of a city otherwise considered to be one of joy and celebrations. What is uncovered as the story progresses involves layers of shady events and the government’s desperate and ruthless efforts to cover them up. Kahaani is peppered with honest, light-hearted humor as well. The awkward equation and eventual camraderie between Vidya and sub-inspector Raana make for some heart-warming cinematic moments.
More so, the writing is sheer brilliance. It isn’t often that every detail of a scene is given such careful and meticulous consideration in Hindi cinema.
The Triangle Park climax is indeed one that will leave every viewer gasping for breath. It’s a spine-chilling, to say the least. However, the interspersing of all the plots in the end could have been executed in a more fluidic way. Makes it a little hard to decipher for the masses.
Make no mistake about it, Kahaani might just be the most intimate depiction of Kolkata to ever be captured on celluloid. Every frame oozes the charm of the festive city. The DOP (Setu) has done an astounding job with the cinematography.
Vishal-Shekhar’s music is a breath of fresh air. The duo manages to capture the upbeat spirit of the city in their title track. Special mention must be given to the hauntingly beautiful ‘Ek Cholo Re’ sung by Amitabh Bachchan. All in all, the music adds further to the compelling Bengali flavor of the film.
A lot has been spoken about the film’s leading lady since her National Award win. I’ll add to that. With Kahaani, Vidya Balan reinstates her position at the top. We have our size zeros, we have our accented imports, we even have out desi girls. But we only have one true-blue replica of the Indian woman. And that’s Vidya Balan. Her portrayal of a tormented wife relentlessly searching for her husband against all odds, is one that film aficionados and laymen alike are going to praise for ages to come. She captivates you with every emotion. You feel her pain, you feel her anguish. She has that rare gift of nonchalantly encompassing both vulnerability and flair in her performance.
Apart from that, there are many memorable performances in Kahaani. Parambrata Chattopadhyay, as Rana, is exemplary. His portrayal of the warm-hearted inspector is compelling. Nawazuddin Siddiqi, as Khan, is memorable. He portrays the foul-mouthed and brash ego-maniac with absolute panache. Indraneil Sengupta is effective. Some stand-out acting by the actor portraying the contract killer. A challenging role that I thought was played with utter grit. The two child actors were effortlessly charming.
All this and much more makes Kahaani a memorable cinematic experience. It works mainly because of honest portrayals and a virtually flawless story. Take a bow, Sujoy Ghosh and team.
Verdict: Just hit the nearest theatre right away and give this one a watch. It’s a splendid cinematic experience.
Jackie J. Thakkar