Starring: Vidya Balan, Parambrata Chatterjee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Saswata Chatterjee, Dhritimaan Chatterjee
Directed by Sujoy Ghosh
Kahaani begins delectably, as a sensuous ode to Calcutta. The familiar sights and sounds—be it the tram, metro or yellow Amby cabs—reach out affectionately through the indulgent eye-view of the filmmaker. Clearly enamoured with the city, Ghosh is intent on sharing that passion with his audience, using the lively streets as an energetic scene of crime.
Into this landscape of chaos and charm arrives Vidya Venkatesan Bagchi (Vidya Balan), from London, in search of her missing techie husband. He had come to work on a project for the National Data Centre and went off the grid after two weeks. And the mystery around the husband gets more and more confounding. Questions aplenty remain unanswered, lies surface en masse, varied pieces of an impenetrable puzzle are thrown at befuddled, unsuspecting viewers. One inscrutable character after another keeps getting added to the unfolding drama—the friendly, earnest copper Rana, the guesthouse owner, a simpleton LIC agent, the foul-mouthed, uncouth IB officer Khan, the unfathomable IB chief Bhaskaran and the unbending former officer Bajpai. It isn’t the much-feted Vidya, but these characters who lend the film its necessary edge and whimsy, especially Saswata as the sweet and sly LIC agent.
The film works up to this point, building suspense and complicating an ostensibly simple tale of an investigation. The first half manages to hold interest with a couple of genuinely scary and sinister moments. Post-interval, when the unravelling of the mystery begins, the film begins to flounder. It fails to take you to the edge-of-your-seat. Things begin feeling much too staged. Even a natural, spontaneous actor like Nawazuddin, as IB cop Khan, feels overtly mannered. At times, Kahaani is too clever, at others extremely pedestrian like in the depiction of computer hacking and IB operations, not to speak of the ludicrous terrorist angle and the all-too predictable Durga Puja setting for that mythology tie-in.
The ending feels more clumsy than menacing as Ghosh begins to explain each detail at length—very literally. The spoon-feeding takes the intrigue away. I come away feeling cheated and look back at the whole construct with reservations.
The movie Kahaani (Glitterati, Mar 26) does Calcutta injustice. I know hand-pulled rickshaws do survive in some corners of the city, but why did they have to fall back on this one (enduring, it seems) cliche of the city?
Vidya Balan seems to subsist on bottled water alone.
On the whole another nice (yet not run of the mill) desi movie fare. Of course, at some point the 2nd half it was clear the only plausible path was that Bidya Baloon (I think would be how a Bengali would say it) was setting it up for revenge and possibly Khan was the "butler" who did it. Got it right on one count and wrong on the other.
Unlike the reviewer, once paisa vasool, I don't like to de-construct and construct movies. Though of late Paan Singh Tomar was still the better one.
The movie does not provide a good image of India in general and Kolkata in particular. Not one scene where the city is shown in good standing. Not one scyscraper, not one fully lit building. We see crowds of people everywhere with a specific scene showing the LIC agent riding a rickshaw pulled by a human being. I know that this mode of transport exists, but do we HAVE to show this side of the city? Can't we show more glamorous part of the same city? Even the scene with the metro shows a crowded metro and does not leave a good taste.
How about the Data Centre? The most sensitive data belonging to the IB is housed in a decrepit building where the only impediments for an intruder - between a fully open back door and the sensitive data are - one chowkidar (cannot be called a security personnel), a secretary and an old style lock that can be opened with a hair pin.
The whole movie is shot in low light (mostly dark rooms even in full daylight scenes). Please! Where is the respect for the city? Where is the love for the city?
The story is different, and does not depend on the usual love angle, but the issue is resolved because in the end of the movie, the villain moves closer to the heroine by chance and gets hurt. Else?
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