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‘Kahaani’: Movie Review (2012)

Movie Review (2012)
Starring: Vidya Balan, Parambrata Chattopadhyay, Nawazuddin Siddiqui
Directed by: Sujoy Ghosh

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

This is a great time to be a movie buff. Within a week of “Paan Singh Tomar”, which should incontestably win Irrfan Khan the National Award for best actor, comes “Kahaani” in which Vidya Balan is so flawlessly resplendent that one suspects the next year’s National Award too is already reserved for her. Dirty deeds forgotten.

Playing Vidya Bagchi, a non-resident Indian (NRI) who lands in Kolkata heavily pregnant and immeasurably distressed by the disappearance of her husband, Vidya Balan doesn’t hit a single false note in the entire graph of her character’s fascinating journey.

“Kahaani” is not an ordinary thrill-a-minute film about a search for a missing person. It’s a lot more. Bringing a virgin vitality to the suspense drama, the film strikes a captivating balance between realism in art and the art of courting realism, without losing the entertainment quotient.

From the moment Vidya lands in Kolkata, the colour, vibrancy, bustle and jostle that are peculiar to Kolkata assail your senses. It’s a claustrophobic yet liberating world of intrigue and deception. A pungent flavour of anxiety and stress qualify the narration from frame one.

Sujoy Ghosh, whose earlier films gave us no clue of the ingenuity that he displays here with such ostensible casualness, cuts the footage with razor sharp economy, leaving no sign of the surgery involved in leaving behind scenes and putting together a tale that pays homage to Hitchcock even while it tilts its topi to the detective films of Satyajit Ray.

The complexities of metropolitan life emerge in a kind of bridled flurry. Within a few minutes of Vidya’s landing in Kolkata we know her search for her missing husband is not going to be a cake-walk. Yes, we will see this spirited woman’s pursuit of the truth to the end.

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 add up finally to a jigsaw where not a single piece is out of place.

The end-game, shot in an exquisite eruption of Durga Puja’s compelling colours, is so unexpected, it is bound to leave even the most diehard cynics with a sense of satiated suspense.

Indeed so clever is the writing and so stunning yet convincing the denouement that one was persuaded into wondering whether Sujoy Ghosh filched the material from some unidentifiable source.

While it would be criminal to give away any of the plot details it would be in the scope of permissible praise to say the writing is clearly not meant to strew red herrings in our way. As we go back to the film, at the end we see every detail, every twist and turn in the plot was meant to be a coherent pointer to the complete picture.

Ghosh’s masterful story-telling leaves no room to doubt the existence of a rather unforgiving God who charts a seemingly cruel destiny for the unsuspecting individual.

Vidya’s portrayal of grace under pressure is so measured and skilled, one at times wonders if she was actually watching herself perform from a distance to make sure she didn’t take her character’s distress into the kingdom of melodrama.

Vidya Balan has splendid support from actors who merge into the Kolkatan conundrum with the seamless inevitability of people who accept extraordinary circumstances as part of life’s ordinary patterns.

Impressive in his own right is Parambrata Chattopadhyay as Vidya’s pillar of support from within an establishment that insists on throwing her off the track.

Parambrata plays his gentle character with such tender affection that you begin to believe goodness is not an extinct commodity.

Nawazuddin Sidiqqui, that brilliant actor from Kabir Khan’s “New York” and last week’s “Paan Singh Tomar”, brings a steely-sharp ruthlessness to his investigative officer’s role.

In one of Vidya’s best sequences where she quietly tells him to keep his menacing advice to himself, Nawazuddin steps back to let the lady have her moment of glory, unhampered.

Vidya Balan takes centrestage with great skill and restrained pride. Her laughter of joy when she bonds with the chai-wallah kid (Ritobroto Mukherjee) and her final breakdown sequence bring her close to the cathartic emotions that Shabana Azmi displays.

Vidya displays a rare understanding of her character’s exacerbated emotional and physical state. Luckily for her, her co-actors display no outward or inward signs of insecurity in playing roles that are designed to be supremely supportive.

Veteran Bengali actors unknown to Bollywood, such as Saswata Mukherjee as a hired assassin and Kharaj Mukherjee as a kindly podgy cop, fill up the edges of the comprehensive lucid portrait of a woman with a mission, without crowding the canvas.

“Kahaani” is one of those rare films that can easily lay claim to being a game-changer. And yet the narrative makes no claims. The destiny of the protagonist is charted in a breathless sweep of urgently persuasive episodes that tumble out as though God wrote Vidya Bagchi’s screenplay.

Enthralling, absorbing and engaging the narrative never resorts to italicized emotions to get our attention. We are hooked unconditionally from scene one. We surrender to Vidya’s journey. She gives us no choice.


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17 Responses to “‘Kahaani’: Movie Review (2012)”

  1. a r modak//////johannesburg
    March 14, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

    vidya balan’s “pregnant pause”-after delivering a hit (Parineeeta) has stood her in good stead.

    after a few duds. “heyy baby”, “salaam-e-ishq”. she came back with Balki’s “Paa”-and th rest is kahaani-
    or history!

  2. sandeep
    March 24, 2012 at 10:03 am #

    awsm movie… awsm performance…. and awsm kolkata….and its a treat for all bengalis who are staying outside bengal…..

  3. swathi
    March 26, 2012 at 8:18 am #

    awsum movie..Superb performance by Viday balan.

  4. govind sharma
    March 26, 2012 at 12:16 pm #

    its a movie,which can be of hollywood steps,smells and looks. 100% mind blowing. rather I assume that, the begining could have been narrative than the present,so can be cater to ordinary movie watchers.. Thumps up vidya,director,officers etc..

  5. sabahuddin
    March 27, 2012 at 8:43 pm #

    what a movie! which actually holds your eyes on screen for 2.30hrs.u w’ll not go out in interval also for not missing any scene.What a role played by vidya balan……..awsom movie.atleast thousands time better than “AGENT VINOD”

    March 29, 2012 at 10:42 am #

    Movie .. which keep u sticked to ur seats and the ending part…unexpected..wow just laaved vidya’s performance… :) :)…and far better than Agent Vinod….:P

  7. ANU
    March 29, 2012 at 6:39 pm #

    I dont remember when was the last time i came out of the cinema hall completely mesmerised after watching a hindi movie…hats off..to the screen play,to the direction,to the performances,to calcutta and last but not the least..to the climax….absolutely marvellous..

  8. joice abraham
    April 2, 2012 at 3:29 pm #

    its realy mind blowing movie….this film again prooved ,screan play is the back bone of a movie….good direction,camera and exellent editing….&the casting also suatable and they performed verry well.8/10

  9. sampriti
    April 5, 2012 at 11:50 am #

    its a very gripping movie….the suspense was retained till the end there was a twist in the end which awestruck the audience….vidya’s acting was mindblowing…..soo i can say in a nutshell its a MUST WATCH film

  10. Gyro
    April 7, 2012 at 4:18 pm #

    I do not understand the reason why none of the police official is asking the ID proof of Vidhya’s husband. That too when he is a NRI and have come to Kolkata from London for an assignment definitely his passport number will be asked by any concerned officials. The company in Kolkata says they have not called any one from London for an assignment, The guest house incharge says there was none stayed in his mansion with that name, The inquiry to Kolkata Airport reveals no one has traveled in that name but the police department is simply listening to the ‘Story’ of Vidhya. Would they not check in London whether so and so person lived in London in that name, his career etc.? I think all these mistakes are covered under the big belly of Vidya.

    • antony jose
      April 17, 2012 at 6:08 pm #

      the film’s name is khahaniiiiiiiiii man

  11. Bridge, M
    April 8, 2012 at 1:24 am #

    I agree with Gyro. Vidya B. is great but…..Even the direction is not that great. And, sure, no movie is complete without the big B.’s touch…Grow up kido!

  12. antony jose
    April 17, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

    excellent movie.vidya’s acting is outstanding . i wish her to get another nation award. she deserve it .

  13. antony jose
    April 17, 2012 at 6:05 pm #

    excellent movie.vidya’s acting is outstanding . i wish her to get another national award. she deserve it .

  14. Nalini Sen
    April 23, 2012 at 1:47 am #

    Salute to Kahani’s cast and the people who directed the entire movie. Story is very captivating and you’re drawn to movie from the minute it starts. I wish Bollywood made more movies like this. Stand up applaud to Vidya Balan, no doubt you’re taking best actresses away AGAIN!!!!. Girl, your name is all over it this award!!!!

  15. Deepika
    August 25, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

    I watched “kahani” today.. I know its a late:p awesome movie
    I loved it , wouldn’t mind watching it a100 times. Beautiful acting by everyone.
    Great job:)

  16. Hasib uddin
    April 16, 2013 at 10:01 am #

    The film is nice

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