in Bollywood

Kahaani (2012) [Movie Review]

Kahaani - Movie Review, Vidya Balan, Sujoy Ghosh

You know it’s an awesome movie, when it compels you to think about it over and over again, long after the credits have rolled. You keep thinking, trying to put back the pieces in place, as the director had pointed it out, and also in your own direction of thought, questioning the feasibility. And when it all fits, you smile like a complete fool. But fuck the world, that smile is one of satisfaction – of experiencing a surge of current through your neurons, which have not been so excited for quite some time. And you almost can’t help giving in to the temptation of going back for a second viewing, just to revisit the jigsaw pieces strewn around the length of the movie, to add up to the big picture. Yes, Kahaani is *that* awesome.

I have taken my time with this, as I have revisited Kahaani. And as usual, I have volumes to talk about the movie.
Beware, long post, and yes, SPOILERS alert! :-

1:  INTRO:

The starting scene of Kahaani, reminded me of the absolutely amazing Shor In The City, which also circles around events in a city, happening over the course of a festival. And not just any festival, one which is engrained to the city’s identity (Ganesh Chaturthi). Kahaani utilises the beauty and the chaos of Durga Puja – and highlights Kolkata’s characteristics in its best glimmering avatar. The city is getting ready for the Pujo, as our leading lady, Biddaa (Vidya – Bengali mein shob ekkei! Na Rana! ) Bagchi arrives at the airport, to be received by a chaotic hoard of customer-hungry taxi drivers. Any person arriving at the arrivals terminal of Dum Dum will be familiar with this scene of rat race. Now, imagine a stranger to the city, pregnant lady’s predicament. One could not feel more sorry for Biddaa – even her name is being spelt and pronounced wrong in this chaotic city.

2: Kolkata – the other leading lady:

I know I am lingering on with this. But the way Sujoy Ghosh chose to portray Kolkata is very kaabil-e-taarif. There are no panoramic sweeping shots of Victoria Memorial or Howrah Bridge. Neither is there any eye-popping visual, nudging you “Hey! This is Kolkata”. And most importantly, there is not a single false note in the Bong-ified Hindi that the characters speak. So, if you were expecting Hoodibaba to follow every 2 words, or someone to say “Ishhh Shotti” in the same breath, you will be disappointed. Sujoy Ghosh’s Kolkata is noisy, homely, busy, chaotic, dangerous, decorated, in full Pujo season, and most importantly very familiar. From the dimmed interiors of a favourite restaurant – Mocambo, to the street food favourite – Luuchi, there’s everything to cater everyone’s taste. If Pradeep Sarkar’s Parineeta was a quick vrooming tutorial of Kolkata in its introductory 3 minutes (y’know Traamo ka ..Cofee House ke Shaamo ka..), Sujoy Ghosh’s Kolkata remains a constant character throughout the span of the movie, much like a second leading lady of the story.

3: BOSS:

I cannot help not mentioning this. This is a fact – Sujoy Ghosh, is inarguably the only director who shows so much love and fandom to the Boss, Panchamda, in his movies. It has now become a sort of the movie maker’s motif . With Jhankaar Beats, we got a taste of that fandom. In Kahaani, Ghosh employs the FM Radio as the device to spread the Boss love in the form of few of the best Panchamda’s hits – some in Hindi, and some in their Bengali versions. Honestly, raise your hands when you heard “Aamar Shopno Je” , and your brain went – hang on, I know that song. That’s “Apne Pyar Ke Sapne Sach Hue”. Well, not me. Coz, I grew up listening to the Bengali versions on Angel VHS tapes and local radio stations. SCORE!

4: Let’s Talk About Vidya: 

Now, everyone has not even stopped talking about her Dirty Picture yet. And then Vidya lands this awesome slab on our face – yelling – BOW DOWN TO MY AWESOMENESS! And Bidda dee, we bow to thee!

SPOILER START: If you have not seen the movie – seriously, get the fuck out, watch the movie and then come back:

As we all know, Vidya has been portrayed as a damsel in distress in the trailers, who is all alone in this zaalim duniya, searching for her husband, who has just evaporated into thin air. And faced with a city which has the local police struggling with technology, and guest houses with no digital records, the task of finding Arnab Bagchi seems like finding a needle in a haystack city. So far so good. But when the “Kahaani” of Kahaani is revealed, that very damsel in distress turns into Lara Croft – out to seek revenge. Bolo Biddaa Mata ki… Joii !!

Yes, Ms Balan has those eyes, that can at once turn you ghaayal with the way they manipulate you. She can turn the kids to her minion army, make fellow cop Rana swoon in love, and even trick an intelligence officer Khan to believe in the authenticity of her situation. And simultaneously, leave us audience  spell-bound. Lastly, when the reveal happens, the same eyes project “Shakti” – the power of the Devi in her eyes. It is almost symbolic in the sense how Vidya kills the “asura” of her tale, who could not be traced down by achche-achcho Intelligence Officer dudes. Kyunki, chauvinistic pride killed the male cat. That is what spelled the doom for Mahishasura, and the same fate was met by Milan Damji.

Again, Bolo Biddaa Mata ki… Joii !!

5: Biswas, Bob Biswas:

And then, there was the instant hit, soon to be added in my Top 20 Villains List ( Zyada bol diya kya? ), Bob Biswas – played by Saswata Chatterjee, in what can only be termed as unpredictable. Who’d have thought that an LIC agent, going through the daily grind of meeting sales targets, noting down deliverables in post-it notes, could also be carrying a Beretta in his leather bag. The carbon-framed glass and the nerdy smile are enough to fool you to ignore him as one of the crowd. But on a second glance, Bob could scar you for life with his “unconventionally haunting Serial Killer” smile. Even our Bidda Maata got the creeps with that brief Metro stunt. Only if Rana wasn’t such an excellent sprinter, Bob would’ve been here amongst us, somewhere, secretly sipping his tea, waiting for his next assignment.

6: My Name is Khan:

Yet another jewel on the crown of this movie is Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s strong performance as the IB Officer, Mr.Khan. Like every cocky FBI chief that we’ve seen in numerous Hollywood flicks, Khan walks the walk and talks the talk with his power – the power of position. He smokes incessantly, and looks like there is a vacuum cleaner sucking on his lungs. His lanky physique isn’t presented well either, by his one size larger shirt. But all of that can do nothing to make Khan look like a normal Officer. This Mr.Khan is manipulative, sharp, smart (almost to the level of being a smart ass), and brutally crude with his words. Yet another brilliant find by the casting director.

7: Rana and the others!

And of course, the whole B-Town has been talking of the subtle coochy-coo between Bidda and Rana. And kyun-na ho, after all, Rana is the quintessential Bhodro Bong chhele,(a term used to describe an ideal Bengali lad) who will walk an extra mile to help out the lady, whom he seems to be deeply attached to. Parambrata Chatterjee’s portrayal is definitely worthy of a big round of applause. It is his pleasant characterisation of Rana, that makes it believable that all the ladies – be it the one at the reception of NDC or the blood bank , readily agreed to help out. Well, it helps if you have a police uniform, no doubt.

And then, there’s the pot-bellied, mid-life crisis se ulajh rahe “Pooleesh Officer” – Kharaj Mukherjee, who provides comic relief with his natural histrionics. The older supporting cast are equally efficient with their roles, but don’t have much to play around with. It is the young kids who are easily the most expressive, and their interaction scenes with Vidya are a treat to watch. And just for that – “Champagne for the casting director !”

8: In Conclusion: 

Kahaani offered more and more with each passing minute, and with each passing minute, more and more layers got revealed. And when the final layer was peeled off, all I had on my face was a missing lower jaw, as it had hit the floor so hard, that my plumbing needed to be fixed. Jokes apart, Kahaani will go down in history as one of Indian cinema’s most brilliant thrillers, almost on the lines of Teesri Manzil and Jewel Thief. In fact, the whole “there is no Amar” concept of Jewel Thief, has been given a female Salaam by the genius team of Kahaani. From the starting title reel that captures the city of Kolkata with Usha Uthup’s “thoda bizarre hai” lyrics, to the end credits of Amitabh Bachchan singing “Ekla Cholo“, Kahaani swept my heart and feet away. There is so much goodness to be had, that I have forgotten any sort of negative bits that I came across while watching it.

Ratings ko kaho bye-bye. This is an epic win. Must watch. Aami shotti bolchi!

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7 × five =

  1. Awesome review, Sujoy !
    Your spoiler alert prevented me from reading it till date, and after I saw the movie last night, the first thing I did is- log in to OKS.
    I agree that it’s a masterpiece. In fact it’s quite under-rated in media, IMO.

    I’m waiting for your review of Agent Binod ! :)

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