Review: Kahaani

From the very first scene of a man in a gas mask testing some lethal chemical on lab rats, Kahaani has you gripped. And when the action shift outdoors onto the crowded, colorful and chaotic streets of Kolkata, you feel a sense of engagement – seeing locales captured with affection and honesty by the lens of cameraman Setu. After this all it takes is the wobbling, hot and harried figure of a heavily pregnant Vidya Bagchi (played by Vidya Balan) stumbling through the streets of Kolkata to keep you glued to your seat. The first thought that comes to your mind is – man, this girl can act! The second is that it is so nice to see Kolkata on film and the third is thank god director Sujoy Ghosh has found his form again after his promising start with Jhankaar Beats that was followed up with two disasters – Home Delivery and Aladin.

Kahaani is a suspense thriller from get-go. A menacing chemical attack on the Kolkata Metro sets the mood. A lone pregnant NRI woman searching for her missing husband against the odds, sipping on bottled water to assuage the heat adds to the oppressive mood. She opts to stay in a grimy guesthouse where running hot water refers to the young boy who runs to the room with a kettle of piping hot water! Her only ally is cooperative policeman Rana who assists her as she searches for her missing husband Arnab Bagchi, but each lead appears to draw a dead-end. Will she find her Arnab; what has become of him; why is the greasy haired insurance agent Bob Biswas (Saswata Chatterjee) constantly getting MMS pictures that he alleges are potential ‘clients’; and why is the top brass of the investigative bureau suddenly interested in this case?

Setu’s cinematography, Namrata Rao’s crisp editing and Sujoy Ghosh’s script create the perfect setting for Vidya Bagchi’s quest. Though riddled with holes (the plot will unravel once you begin to think too hard about it), it is nonetheless full of many interesting twists and turns till the surprising climax. Kahaani follows the rulebook of suspense thrillers closely – including creating a menacing and haunting character that could be the stuff of nightmares. The casting is a big hero within the film – Parambrata Chattopadhyay as helpful young cop Rana is sincere and credible and Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Intelligence Bureau officer Khan is riveting. But the real hero of the film is its leading lady Vidya Balan, reinforcing her position at the top echelons of the industry. You totally believe she is pregnant to the extent that the sympathy begins to convert to empathy!

You leave the movie hall with two lingering effects – one: humming ‘Eklo chalo re’, beautifully sung by Amitabh Bachchan; and two: with a strange feeling of heaviness around the belly!

Rating: ***1/2