As the haunting last strains of Ekla Cholo Re lingered in the theatre, I sat there enjoying every note and the feeling of warmth and familiarity that was washing over me and all the other Calcuttans in the room. The sweeping images of Calcutta decked up in all her Pujo finery, the dilapidated buildings of the British Raj, yellow taxi cabs, the seedy underbelly of the black markets and the posh restaurants in Park Street, all subtle reminders of a city that is in a constant state of limbo. Calcutta is as integral a character in the film Kahaani as is Vidya Balan’s Bidya. I’m so glad Sujoy Ghosh set the story here. Too many Hindi films are set in Mumbai and Delhi. In fact, Calcutta has gone unexplored, with the exception of a few films like Parineeta and Yuva that needed a Calcutta backdrop.
From the very beginning, the jagged camera work, the fast paced action and the unpredictable turn of events all indicate that the audience is in for a gripping and gritty thriller. But, Kahaani transcends the normal thrill-a-minute action films that Bollywood is so used to churning out. This film is so much more than the hunt for a missing person, which is ironically another Bollywood stereotype. Kahaani is so much more: what makes Kahaani extra special is that the film precariously toes the line between cinematic liberties and reality. This is such a huge achievement for the team Kahaani, for there are moments in the film where you will forget it is a film and will begin to be engrossed in the story of Bidya Bagchi.
I’m not going to spoil the movie for those of you who have not seen it and besides, there are so many twists and turns that I wouldn’t know how to explain them all. But you will be happy to know that Sujoy Ghosh keeps the movie exquisitely authentic and unbelievably gripping till the very last scene. You will not find (and thankfully so) a chiffon clad Vidya dancing in the Swiss Alps with ten different costume changes. You will not find the excruciatingly obscene item number and you will not be forced to listen to the minimum number of tracks that a music company needed to fit into the movie to rake in some additional moolah. Kahaani is not one of those films.
Vidya is perfectly dazzling in her execution of what I feel is her best character till date. but it is the buffet of supporting characters that contribute to making the film come alive. Parambrata Chatterjee is perfect as young Rana, who becomes her willing accomplice. In fact his natural charm is the perfect foil for Vidya. My favourite character though is Bob Biswas (actor Saswata Chatterjee), the unflinching and cold hearted hit man masquerading as an LIC agent. And oh! I must not forget the beaming little boy and the ‘running hot water.’
Yes, Kahaani could do with a few less twists and turns and there are one too many sub plots and jigsaw pieces that all eventually do fall into place but, the film remains breathlessly engaging till it’s very last scene which is something not many Hindi films are able to do. So kudos to the team – Kahaani shows that there are still engaging and captivating stories waiting to be told.