Generating buzz before the release of a film is one thing and actually delivering to the expectations generated by the entire buzz is totally another thing. Without mincing words I’m happy to say that with Kahani, Sujoy Ghosh has gone on to confidently make the transition from generating buzz to actually delivering the right output with the film. And the release couldn’t have been timed better what with Vidya Balan winning the National Award as Best Actress for The Dirty Picture just before the release of Kahaani. The promos did mention that the film would have Vidya Balan playing the central character and that the city of Kolkata would probably emerge as a character in itself, but it’s great to note that the film still ends up surprising you.
By now we all know that Kahaani starts with Vidya Bagchi (Vidya Balan), a pregnant woman coming all the way from London to Kolkata in search of her husband, Arnab Bagchi. Co-incidentally Durga Puja is around the corner and the city is slowly coming alive with all its charm and splendor. Vidya goes about meticulously and works relentlessly in her pursuit and search of her husband. She keeps hitting roadblocks in the form of people who claim not to know of her husband’s existence or would rather want her going back to London. Kahaani is the story of Vidya and her pursuit of the truth and what ensues is told in a completely arresting style and Sujoy ensures that the audience is hooked right till the end.
Be it the characters (minor or major), the choice of locations or the situations woven into the plot, there’s hardly a loose corner in the film. As the days pass by and as Vidya’s search continues, the viewer can’t but help noticing the transition that Kolkata goes through meanwhile in the film as well. Starting from the lead-up to Durga Puja, what with the idols getting made etc to the culmination of the actual festival, the city of joy comes alive in its resplendent avatar. Even if u find an odd step somewhere Sujoy does ensure that there’s some explanation for that coming up. Watch the film and I’m sure you’ll identify with what I’m saying.
The writing ( story by Sujoy Ghosh and Advaita Kala and screenplay by Sujoy Ghosh with additional screenplay by Suresh Nair and Nikhil Vyas ) is spot on and ensures that the pace of the film doesn’t dip any moment thanks to the sequences that unfold. Be it Vidya’s interaction with the boy at the guest house or the tea stall or the way Bob Biswas ( Saswata Chatterjee )’s transition is shown when he’s in the LIC office and outside, the police station scenes etc all of them are wonderfully written and shot as well. The production design by Kaushal Das and Subrata Barik is absolutely spot on and certainly award worthy, no doubt.
If Kolkata and Vidya Balan both deserve top honors for making the film emerge so spectacular on screen then how can one not highlight the importance of cinematography in the film? Setu, the DOP has brilliantly translated Sujoy’s vision on screen and the colorful splendor of Kolkata has been captured wonderfully indeed. Be it the intermittent by lanes, the Tramlines across the city, the Metro stations and the suburbs of the city, each and every single scene cries out to you and shows you the beauty of Kolkata. If you are from Kolkata or lived there before the film makes you fall in love with the city all over again and even if you’ve never been there you still feel a strange connect to the city indeed.
Vishal-Shekhar’s music is of the rare kind where the songs fall in sync with the mood of the film and never distract the audience. Be it the infectious ‘Ami Shotti Bolchi’ sung with spunk by Usha Uthup and Shekhar Ravjiani or the wonderful rendering of ‘Ekla Cholo Re’ by Amitabh Bachchan, none of these for a moment gain more prominence over the film’s proceedings and allow Vidya and Kolkata to hold centre stage rather. The characters are believable and extremely interesting as well. Check out the manager of Monalisa Guest House for example who keeps referring to Vidya as ‘Her Majesty’ and his explanation of ‘running hot water’ and you’ll have a smile on your lips. As interesting and genuine as the characters are, equally praise worthy is the choice of artistes and their performances as well.
Parambrata Chatterjee is a true revelation indeed and this Bengali actor might just about widen his horizon with Kahaani. Already popular in Bengali Cinema with films like the recent hit 22 Se Shrabon and the Feluda series (Bombaiyer Bombete, Kailashey Kelenkari, Tintorettor Jishu ) etc, the actor exudes wonderful restraint and is completely a natural as Sub Inspector Rana/Satyaki. In fact I loved the way his character of a rookie cop is built up in the film. He’s someone who is new to the system and hence a lot more emotional and expressive and this is captured quite well in the film. And when you see him travelling back all alone at night by tram (shown many times in the film) and as he receives a call from home, it almost gives you a feeling that one could even have a movie made centred around Rana/Satyaki’s character.
Nawazuddin as Khan the senior IB official is brutal and a sharp contrast to the roles he’s played so far. Saswata Chatterjee , Indraneil Sengupta and Dhritiman Chatterjee are well utilized as well. But if Kahaani works and works wonderfully so well then it has to be primarily due to Vidya Balan. Even imagining this film without Vidya Balan and Kolkata is something that doesn’t sound good at all. Vidya as the pregnant software engineer in search of her husband puts up a scintillating show over here. The way she walks, responds to situations, bends or sits down etc are all indicators of how well she’s tuned herself to portray a pregnant woman. If she was bold and daring in The Dirty Picture then here she is completely dynamic and it’s very clearly visible as to why Sujoy has always been saying that there would have been no Kahaani without Vidya.
A special mention must be made about Namrata Rao’s editing which ensures that the final output is just about right and the duration (just about 2 hours) is adequate and the pace is more or less uniform. Personally as the film drew to a close I couldn’t help but turn nostalgic and smile as the climax plays out during the Durga Puja at Triangular Park ( I lived a stone’s throw away from the place for a while ). As the film drew to a close I did ask myself if all that explanation at the end was needed and if the film couldn’t have ended at Triangular Park itself. But in hindsight probably this would go down better with the majority for the audience.For those who feel sad that Amitabh Bachchan’s rendering of ‘Ekla Cholo Re’ is played just briefly in the movie, I’d suggest that you wait till the end credits play out completely and hear the whole song as well. All in all Kahaani is a well made thriller and makes one actually exclaim at the end, ‘Kahaani ho to aisi’.