Early in 2012, when the trailer for Kahaani first showed up, the responses to it ranged from sceptical to intrigue, the former due to Sujoy Ghosh’s rather inconsistent track record till then, which consisted of the cult classic Jhankaar Beats, the rather off-kilter Home Delivery and the absolutely terrible Aladdin, and the latter responses were thanks to Vidya Balan, who was fresh off the success of The Dirty Picture. A slow starter at the box office, Kahaani ended up being a seminal moment in the careers of both Ghosh and Balan, as it went on to be one of the most memorable movies of 2012.
Therefore, 4 years later, when the sequel (only in name) was announced, with the addition of Arjun Rampal to the crew, one did feel more skepticism, considering that the post Kahaani, the careers of both Balan and Ghosh haven’t really rocketed,with Balan going through a career slump thanks to the rather underwhelming movies she signed post Kahaani, with the dreadfully regressive Hamari Adhuri Kahani being the worst of the lot. And Sujoy Ghosh had gone off the radar pretty much, except for the short film Ahalya and the Amitabh Bachchan starrer TE3N (which was produced by Ghosh). So the question here really is, does Kahaani 2 retain the magic of the 1st part, or is it just a blatant attempt to cash in on the reputation of the former?
Vidya Sinha (Vidya Balan) is a middle class working woman living in Chandannagar, a small town a short distance away from Calcutta, trying to save up money for a surgery in New York for her daughter Mini (Tunisha Khanna) who’s a paraplegic.
One day, when she returns home from work, she finds Mini missing, followed by a call asking her to get to a certain place, failing which Mini will be killed. And on her way there, Vidya is knocked down by a car, sending her into a coma. A jaded cop, Inderjeet Singh (Arjun Rampal), newly transferred to the town, is assigned the case, and he suspects rightly that all is not what it seems. In the middle of all this, the biggest mystery is who is Durga Rani Singh, and what does she have to do with this story?
Sujoy Ghosh needs to be lauded for the very compelling environment he creates in which where his stories are set. Be it the mofussil dreariness of Chandannagar, the sinister greyness of Kalimpong, or the looming melancholy of Calcutta, Ghosh and cinematographer Tapan Basu manage to transport you there, making you feel like you are walking the streets alongside the characters in the story. Ghosh also focuses more on the characters, rather than the overall plot, allowing their interactions to steer the plot to the climax, and that he does with aplomb.
However, the deftness with which Ghosh handles the slow-burn thrill of the first half, somehow vanishes post-interval, where he sacrifices logic for pace, which is a pity. Because, while the second half is still a compelling watch by large, the proceedings feel more like something Abbas-Mastan would approve of. Besides this, the climax where all plot threads are tied up a tad too neatly, one does walk away thinking, if it could have been handled in a better way.
When it comes to individual performances however, Kahaani 2 hits all the right notes. Vidya Balan who works wonders even with the most mediocre material, is absolutely top notch here as the inconspicuous working woman and also in the scenes where her Mama Bear instincts show up. Arjun Rampal’s performance as the world weary cop, who manages to put away the cynicism while with his loving family, is surprisingly charming and extremely watchable. Naisha Khanna and Tunisha Sharma playing Mini at different stages of the film are absolutely fantastic.
The supporting cast consisting of Kharaj Mukherjee as the jolly senior cop, Jugal Hansraj, Tota Roy Chowdhury and Amba Sanyal are absolutely top notch, although a special mention needs to be made of Manini Chadha, who plays Arjun Rampal’s extremely affectionate, yet easily exasperated wife, and seems to be a performer to watch out for.
Overall, Kahaani 2 is a highly watchable atmospheric thriller with varying shades of darkness, though, one might have wished for a more complex second half and a better culmination.