Review: Vidya, Kolkata in a never-seen-before avatar in ‘Kahaani’

Shomini Sen

When the going gets tough, the tough get going. That seems to be the underlying theme of Sujoy Ghosh’s ‘Kahaani’. And what a film it is. The edge of the seat thriller was being touted as the next big release for Vidya Balan post her ‘The Dirty Picture’ success. And it doesn’t disappoint one bit.

The film, which was in the making for quite a few years, couldn’t have had a better release time. Especially when the entire nation is still hung over with Vidya’s dirty act in last year’s blockbuster hit, ‘The Dirty Picture’. A stark contrast to her Silk avatar, Vidya portrays the role of Vidya Bagchi, a heavily pregnant NRI woman who comes to Kolkata in search of her missing husband. The backdrop is of a city which is bustling with activities prior to the grand Durga Puja festival.

Looking for her husband Arnab Bagchi, Vidya gets embroiled in a case which is murkier than anyone could possibly imagine. Neither can the viewers because till almost the last frame, one can’t possibly imagine the twists that the narrative has in store for the viewers.

Ghosh crafts a tale of devious dynamics that do not make a song and dance of their cloak-and-dagger intentions. The narrative doesn`t whip up a lather of anxieties. Stock devices of the suspense genre are here thrown meaningfully into the Hooghly. The relevance and resonance of Vidya`s journey into the dark, unrevealed bowel of India`s secret service emerge in illuminating details created in Vidya`s character which adds up finally to a jigsaw where not a single piece is out of place.

The story and narrative is so brilliant that one wonders why Sujoy Ghosh’s last two outings were so out of place and obscure. Here is a director who very cleverly weaves a story in a simple, uncomplicated city which is known for its revelry and pureness. Kolkata, its streets, its people, its culture - all are beautifully included in the film. Ghosh includes the old murky bylanes of the city which sets the mood for the grim plot.

Recently awarded with a National Award, Vidya Balan makes sure that the viewer is engaged and almost as desperate as her to find out where her husband is. The actress is turning out to be one of those rare stars who really does not need a leading man to carry a film forward. This is the second film (after ‘The Dirty Picture’) where Vidya single handedly takes the film forward. No Romance. No Khans. Only Vidya Balan.

The supporting cast is brilliant and ably supports Balan in each and every frame. A popular name in Bengali art house films, Parambrata Chatterjee gives a restrained and sensitive performance as the kind and friendly cop, Rana. Some of the scenes between Balan and Chatterjee hint at romance but it is left to just that. The director does not deviate even once from the main story line.

It is also heartening to see other known faces of Bengali film industry playing some pivotal supporting roles. While Saswata Chatterjee’s psycho assassin acts are spine chilling, Kharaj Mukherjee’s podgy cop act brings a smile on your face.

The film is devoid of any music apart from Big B’s ‘Ekla Cholo Re’ and mostly relies on background score. The only other music is of RD Burman’s old classics (a hangover that Sujoy Ghosh still has from ‘Jhankar Beats’ days) that are cleverly played in the background through some radio set.

Watch the film purely for the story. Watch it for the beautiful Kolkata which comes alive on screen. And yes Vidya is an added bonus.

After a brilliant Paan Singh Tomar last week, Kahaani raises the bar. Clearly, Bollywood is all set to spoil us with good cinema.

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