Kahaani: mother of a mystery thriller

By Nandita Dutta • Published on March 9, 2012

Writer-Director: Sujoy Ghosh, Actors: Vidya Balan, Parambrata Chatterjee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui

[G]iving away how much of the ‘kahaani’ is too much? Well, in the case of Sujoy Ghosh’s Kahaani, too little can be too much and too much, too little. You are sure to be sucked into the film layer by layer until you hit the ‘climax’ when you know what just passed by you is a tour de force. Kahaani is an extremely intelligent story told with such conviction and eagerness that it leaves one thrilled to the core. For those fed up with the dark and gritty underbelly of Mumbai and the indispensable Ganpati, there are the refreshing sights and sounds of Kolkata and the iconic Durga Puja. Durga, hold on to that word for it holds the key to the mystery that the film unravels.

Sujoy Ghosh’s Kolkata is the same now-decadent-once-the-city-of-joy that we know about. It is in this city that a pregnant Vidya arrives from London looking for her missing software engineer husband. She drives straight from the airport to the police station to file a missing person report. Brushing past indifferent cops, fatal attacks and people who call her Bidya (with a B), she embarks on a journey to find her husband. Her journey is not going to be simple we know. The opening sequence showed a gruesome terror attack in a metro that happened two years ago. What is her missing husband’s connection with the attack? Will she ever find him? People tell her he didn’t even exist.

You can keep wondering till the film destroys every assumption that your intelligence throws up with its mind-blowing twists and turns. And there is a good reason why Kahaani released on Women’s day. Women have never been so empowered in our cinema before. Not only is Vidya the protagonist of Kahaani, but she is a character that gratifies as she eventually relegates the powerful men in the film to prostrate positions. The one people take to be a harmless pregnant woman is the Durga of the modern day, a force to reckon with.

Vidya Balan seems a natural choice to play a character like this. Her acting prowess is something that has only been reaffirmed by the national award she recently bagged for The Dirty Picture. She seems to be taking up bigger challenges with every project in a bid to outdo herself. Her Vidya Bagchi is a complicated character which no other actress could have brought to life better.

Besides, there are remarkable performances in the film by Bengali-film actor Parambrata Chatterjee and Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Both are in the role of cops: while Parambrata is the soft-hearted Rana who instantly sympathizes with Vidya and accompanies her on her journey, Nawazuddin is Khan, the ruthless investigator from Intelligence Bureau in Delhi whose true allegiance is revealed gradually. The punch lies in the fact that what we know of every character initially is just the tip of the iceberg. They all have their motives and reveal them in due time. However their powerful and nuanced performances ensure that the viewer gets immersed in the plot effortlessly without distraction.

Sujoy Ghosh has woven as gripping a tale in the city of Kolkata as the acclaimed Calcutta Chromosome by Amitava Ghosh. The film evokes the spirit of the city in a way similar to the novel that traces a scientist who had disappeared in Kolkata. The chaotic city through its old guesthouses, trams and lanes lends itself well to mystery thrillers that provide respite from the quintessential Mumbai. The chaos of the city reflects in the restless camerawork of the film. All the elements in the film blend so well backed by a tight and super intelligent script that it is difficult to point a flaw in it. Kahaani really takes Hindi cinema to the next level.

After Paan Singh Tomar and Kahaani, one really waits to see what more 2012 has in store!

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