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?
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
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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