Mar 14, 2012 (Calcutta Tube): Vidya Balan, Parambrata Chatterjee starrer ‘Kahaani’ has a superb and mature storyline, backed by a talented medley of actors. Directed by Sujoy Ghosh, the thriller film promises to spellbind the audience for weeks if not months.
Suspense reigns supreme from the very first scenes as a mass murder occurs in the Calcutta Metros leaving passengers of an entire carriage gassed to death by a virulent chemical. The authorities are baffled and the case apparently closes without anybody being convicted. But two years later, events start taking curious turns when a software professional from a London firm, Vidya Venkatesan Bagchi, six months pregnant, arrives at Calcutta in search of her missing husband Arnab. She explains to the police that her husband, also another software specialist, had been assigned a job with the National Data Centre (NDC) but just after two weeks of his arrival all communications ceased between them and Arnab went untraceable. The distressed Vidya, found no other option but to travel to Calcutta in his search. Though the officers on duty including the young sympathetic sub-inspector Satyaki Sinha aka Rana, felt it to be no more than a case of fraud played upon the innocent Vidya but matters soon started taking unexpected turns.
Stationing herself at the same guest house where Arnab had supposed to reside prior to his disappearance Vidya launches a parallel investigation of her own. Exhibiting the only snapshot of her camera shy husband, as she starts enquiring at NDC, Agnes, the centre’s veteran HR manager found striking similarities between him and an ex-employee, Milan Damji. But it appears Milan’s records are restricted from general access, and the only way out is mining the data up from old hardcopies stacked at the decrepit record’s room of the old NDC quarters. Unbeknownst to Agnes and Vidya, the joint endeavour had not gone unnoticed as they seemed to inadvertently stumble upon the right path to uncover a latent mystery. Infact the probes into Milan Damji’s past seemed not only to rattle the criminal minds but made its tremors felt among some high ranking IB officials as well.
Grim events followed as murder takes place and IB chief Bhaskaran delegates his deputy, Khan to Calcutta to look into the matter. Meanwhile the young Rana, a debutant in the police forces, is intrigued at the turn of events and goes out of his way to help Vidya. But the sleuthing suffers a jolt as Khan seems all eager to hush up the investigation. Convinced that they are heading along the right path, the undeterred Vidya, with the help of Rana, follows Agnes’ lead and unearths Damji’s file and forces an annoyed Khan to come to terms.
With IB now keeping a close watch it becomes more complicated for Vidya and Rana to seek the truth and danger looms large as the murderer makes his presence felt more than once. As moles in IB and the NDA pose additional hindrance, vital clues seem to be in store of an ex-IB personnel and an aged local informer – both very much uninterested to cooperate. At a time when the city rejoices in the festivities of the Durga Puja, it is left to Vidya, Rana and Khan to uncover the harsh truth. With Khan setting trap disregarding innocent lives, the audience waits with abated breath for the ultimate showdown that is so startling and deceptive that it clearly distinguishes the film from any ordinary mainstream.
A fascinating thriller directed by Sujoy Ghosh with the skilled editing of Namrata Rao, the added attraction of Kahaani is the charming portraiture of Calcutta. Woven into the very fabric of the city of joy, cradle to some of the finest detectives of fiction – Byomkesh-Feluda-Kiriti – the city salutes the fearless and resolute Vidya as she carries on her sleuthing among the dingy nooks, the grimy tea stalls, the shabby offices and above all, the pride of the city – the metros. Selecting a season when Calcutta offers her best show, the magic and the festivities of the city has been captured by the enthralling cinematography of Setu with the selected collage of the antiquated tramways, the art and artists of Potopara, the vibrant Durga Puja and the traditional grandeur of Bijoya Dashami when Calcutta bids farewell to the Goddess of Power until the next year. Infact the splendour continues till the very climax that has been interleaved with the immersion festivities as Vidya, representing Devi Durga on her mission to cleanse the Mother Earth of all evil, shows her mettle as she evades security to confront the villain all by herself.
Not only during the climax but throughout the entire movie Vidya Balan (Vidya) has been simply outstanding. Blending well with her surroundings she carries on the role with her characteristic ease. Shifting the moods from the distressed wife to the determined truth seeker her effortless transitions makes the character more realistic than ever. Accompanying her with his naive looks, Parambrata maintains the role of the young sincere sub-inspector (Rana) to such a degree that sometimes the character seemed too pure to be true. Nawazuddin Siddiqui as the shrewd, unabashed Khan was a prudent choice as was Dhritimaan in the role of the IB chief Bhaskaran. Barring the central characters, two more persons deserve special mention for whom no praise seems sufficient. They are Kharaj Mukherjee and Saswata Chatterjee. Kharaj plays the part of senior officer to Rana and he balances the tempo of the movie with the subtle relief without compromising on the seriousness of the situation. Showcasing his fatherly figure, the character releases the stress at intervals that agrees well with the pace and the mood as and when demanded. On the other hand Saswata, playing the role of the sinister contract killer in the guise of an insurance agent, Bob Biswas, though is devoid of any significant dialogue, but his appearance is sure to send shivers down the spine. Maintaining an ominously cool composure he is amazingly different from ordinary villains and the personality that he infuses into the character inspires a mixed reaction of hatred and feel-good from the audience. Abir Chatterjee, Darshan Jariwala, Shantilal Mukherjee, Indraneil Sengupta, Nitya Ganguli, Kalyan Chatterjee, Collen Blanche and all the others including the child actors Riddhi Sen and Ritabrata Mukherjee as casted by Roshmi Banerjee seemed to comprise a careful selection that fits into each role perfectly. Infact inclusion of professionals like Rumki Chatterjee, Falguni Chatterjee, Arindam Sil, etc. in guest roles that lasts not more than a few seconds speaks of the meticulousness that has been followed as their expressions in those short scenes elevates the dimension of the movie even more. Added to this is Suchismita Dasgupta and Sabyasachi Mukherji’s costume design who seemed to excel in the detailing and adds to the realistic touch as also evident from the use of regional actors who doesn’t require additional make-ups to represent the place where they belong.
The songs (music by Vishal Sekhar) in the movie had been sprinkled at just the right places and never for once tarnish the suspense but why Amitabh Bacchan was required to lend his voice in “Ekla Cholo Re” where professional Bengali/Hindi singers could have been opted for will remain a mystery to me. The compositions themselves seem to be precisely hand-picked as not only the pulse of the city is conveyed by the melodies but the use of the all pervading Rabindrasangeet has bestowed a sense of completeness to the movie and metropolis.
Having said these, a footnote must be dedicated to something that my head demands contrasting to what my heart speaks. Yes, this immensely enjoyable thriller does have certain flaws that though are trivial but a little more detailing could have ensured a feeling of totality. I will point out four mistakes, the first three of which can be easily overridden while enjoying this intriguing tale of peril and courage but the fourth is nothing less than a glaring error of research. The first and foremost is the obvious detailing missed when the IB gets involved. Given the gravity of the situation and the Milan menace posing as a national threat, the IB never bothers a background check of Vidya who claims to be his wife for quite some time. Secondly, throughout the movie, Rana is shown to help a pregnant Vidya more from his sheer kind-heartedness than in a professional capacity but never for once does he solicit Vidya to consult a gynaecologist or queries about her medical condition as regards the baby she is carrying. Thirdly, during Vidya’s private sleuthing with Rana the later is seen often in police uniform that seems a most immature choice for a sensible sub-inspector. But the most appalling error is when Vidya, getting introduced to Rana’s good name Satyaki, refers this to be synonymous to Lord Krishna, charioteer to Arjun in the epic war of Kurukshetra and the phrase is repeated during the last scenes signifying Rana remained all along the charioteer to Vidya while she executed the evil force. The error lies in the fact that Satyaki or Yuyudhan belonged to the same clan as Krishna namely the Vrishni but is never the same person at all. So this is a noticeable inaccuracy among the otherwise accurate script.
Well, now that my brain is appeased, I would once more recommend the movie to one and all for its delightful thrill, a most gratifying plot and an aesthetic presentation – all of which are increasingly becoming a rarity in commercial endeavours.
– Anirban De