What do you look for in a Hindi film when you have paid about Rs 200 for a ticket? While many would echo the famed words of the pouting Vidya Balan in Dirty Picture — “entertainment, entertainment, and entertainment!” — most multiplex audience would also look past the obvious and for a tight script, taut editing, quality and swift narrative. Nope, not the average, ephemeral Bollywood fare, then.
Director: Sujoy Ghosh
Cast: Vidya Balan, Parambrata Chatterjee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui
Story: Sujoy Ghosh, Advaita
Screenplay: Suresh Nair, Sujoy Ghosh
Music Director: Vishal Dadlani, Shekhar Ravjiani
But once in a while we do come across a movie that other than being entertaining also succeeds in pleasing the grey matter. Kahaani undoubtedly falls in that category. The thriller-like, fast-paced narrative of Kahaani is helped ably by a potent script, meaningful acting, relevant cinematography and very apt background music.
The story is about one Mrs Vidya Bagchhi (Vidya Balan), who arrives from London to Kolkata to look for husband, Arnab Bagchi, who goes missing after spending a fortnight in the City of Joy. While Vidya finds no record of Arnab’s arrival or stay in Kolkata, neither in his office or the specified lodging, she gets a clue about a similar-looking man, one Milan Damji, who worked in the same office where Arnab was supposed to work in Kolkata. This Milan Damji, she finds, was involved in a terror incident not long ago.
So Vidya’s effort to unearth the truth about Damji gets repeatedly snubbed by senior intelligence officers. But with the help of police sub-inspector Satyaki Basu, she keeps on the hunt, inching close, ever so closer, to Damji with the hope of getting to Arnab. While it would be unfair to spoil the fun and give out more of the story, Vidya’s desperate hunt, the twists and turns, a few-level officials getting caught in the proverbial net packs in oodles of punch in this tightly woven film.
After Dirty Picture, Vidya Balan scores yet again, almost like back-to-back Test match centuries. She has done complete justice to the protagonist’s role of a heavily pregnant young woman desperately looking for her husband in an unknown city. Completely like you and me, she would break into tears where desperation engulfs her and also share a friendly laugh with the little boy who brings her hot water every morning.
The audience gets involved very easily, sharing Vidya’s tension, and her exultation in equal measure.
A chronic problem in Hindi movies is the apparent disregard for effective supporting cast. But Kahaani scores on that front, too. Parambrata Chatterjee, a popular young actor in contemporary Bengali film industry, plays the role of a sub-inspector, Satyaki, who helps Vidya in her pursuit. His portrayal of a new officer, yet to get emotionally hardened and with a romantic heart for the helpless Vidya, is commendable.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays the role of Khan, a senior IB officer, whose only allegiance is to the nation’s security and who is ready to sacrifice anything that comes in the line of his duty. He is equally convincing. The other actors, picked up with precision from Bengali film and theatre circles, also do justice.
The best part of Kahaani is its pace, maintained throughout the movie: and while many thrillers slacken in the second half, this one in fact gets better post-interval, keeping the viewer always on the edge of the seat to figure out the next step in the mystery.
The scenes shot in the bylanes of Kolkata, with the colour and clamour in the backdrop of Durga Puja, adds to the suspense. I have seldom seen background music being used so effectively in Hindi movies, and kudos to Vishal and Shekhar for making every scene appear so full and appropriate.
My only previous exposure to director Sujoy Ghosh’s work is Jhankaar Beats, and he proves with Kahaani that the earlier one was not a fluke and that he has real mettle to come up with a nice film given a proper story and cast. The only minus point for the film could be the overuse of Bengali words and phrases, which could be a bit tricky for non-Bengalis.