Kahaani: Vidya Balan’s hit with a twist

Published: March 26, 2012

Kahaani is a product of the modern Indian cinema; gone are the days when dancing in the rain was the formula for success.PHOTO: PUBLICITY

Bollywood has evolved a lot in the last five years. Gone are the days when running around trees and dancing in the rain was the formula for success, even though actresses like Kajol did accomplish a lot that way. Kahaani is a product of the modern day Indian cinema, one that is willing to experiment, keep the output quality high and deliver more than it promises.

As we know from his previous directorial and writing ventures like Jhankar Beats, Home Delivery and Aladdin, director Sujoy Ghosh is no Karan Johar. But with Kahaani he has entered a totally new domain of mystery.

The story revolves around a troubled pregnant woman who is looking for her missing husband, collecting clues from here and there with the help of certain people who have their own vested interests in her case.

The film makes you so engrossed in the search that you forget that there could be some twists that you are missing and that some characters might not be as simple as they appear to be. However, that is exactly what Sujoy Ghosh wants you to do and has an apt agent of distraction in Vidya Balan

What more can one say about Vidya; the actress who just bagged the coveted National Award and is single-handedly making commercial films of all genres. I don’t remember the last time an actress became so potent that writers started writing stories keeping her in mind and filmmakers started making flicks just for her. Yes, there have been great actresses in the past but not necessarily all of them were commercially successful. This is the emergence of the modern day Madhuri Dixit or even Rekha. If you thought Vidya was good in Paa, No One Killed Jessica or The Dirty Picture, you should definitely watch Kahaani.

Two more things that go in favour of the film are its cinematography and background score. Satyajit Pande aka Setu is relatively new to the industry and he has done a fantastic job. He was working on a tough brief with varying locations, moods and treatments. His use of natural light in the outdoors is remarkable, close-ups are eye catching and dark scenes keep you at the edge of your seat.

In the background, while several Kishore Kumar oldies give you a real Kolkata feel, “Ekla Cholo Re” (keep walking alone) is mesmerising.

Senior Bachchan’s rendition of Tagore’s beautiful poem is a class act. One has to know a bit of the Bengali language (which I do, courtesy my Bangladeshi wife) to understand the essence of this song and its importance in the film.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui gets the biggest break of his career after several cameos and grabs the opportunity with both hands in his portrayal of intelligence officer Khan. Khan is a rigid, hard-hitting official who does not take nonsense but is willing to use flattery as a weapon when needed.

His confrontations with Inspector Rana are worth watching. Inspector Rana, played by Parambatra Chatterjee, is also a beautiful character. His solo scenes where he is thinking about Vidya, both positive and negative scenarios, show the depth in his role – a job very well done.

Another important character is the contract killer Bob played by Sasawata Chatterjee; something never seen before in Bollywood.

All in all, Sujoy Ghosh has done an extraordinary job with this movie. It was not an easy story to tell especially when you want it to look complicated. His attention to details is terrific and you realise most of it when the film reaches its climax. Here’s a spoiler: everyone in the film has multiple identities, roles or names be it Inspector Rana, the young kid at the Mona Lisa guest house, the National Data Center officer and many others.

While you are watching the movie, you wonder why Rana gave a certain look to Vidya; you wonder if Khan, who looks nice on first appearance, could be a villain. However, when the real story is revealed, you realise that a lot of things were pretty much out in the open and you should have guessed them. That’s the art of contemporary cinema minus some of the heroics towards the end and a narration to explain the missing links. Both Sujoy the writer and Sujoy the director deserve accolades for this work.

As for Vidya Balan, she is definitely the strength of Kahaani. As Shabana Azmi rightly put a few days back, she is fast becoming so strong as an actress that she will make her male co-actors look like dwarves in front of her acting stature and they will be scared of working with her. As of now, Vidya doesn’t seem to care. She is bringing success to her films solely on her own. Who needs a male star when you have your own audience raking in indian Rs41 crore on your film in two weeks? It’s just one more gem; one more FilmFare-worthy performance.

Kahaani has been running for the last two weeks and still had a packed house this Friday at Atrium Cinemas in Karachi. Quite a few screams were heard at the interval and at the climax fight. Everyone left the theater satisfied, their money well spent. It is an excellent film, and I highly recommend that you watch it before it goes off the theaters.

Read more by Sami, or follow him on Twitter @SamiSaayer

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Sami Saayer

A Dubai based Pakistani looking for excuses to write.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://www.zaidzamanhamid.wordpress.com Zaid Hamid

    Huh! I am not impressed. Just watch for the sensational action-thriller Agent Zaidu. It will blow your mind and zionists system!Recommend

  • Satish, Chennai India

    @Author – Very detailed and impressive review and I couldnt agree more … Absolutely wonderful film. The director and the entire cast deserve a lot of accolades.Recommend

  • faisal bawany

    Vidiya balan is an intelligent actress.She has done roles of substance in which acting skills were required rather than the item numbers done to get the approval and ticket sales of men.she hasn’t reduced herself to the level of the women who have no intelligence,no acting talent and therefore resort to doing item numbers to hide their incompetence.We need more actresses like balan who use their brains instead of gyrating their bodies to please men.Recommend

  • Beenish jawed

    @faisal bawany:

    Our society rewards women who use their bodies and gender to get ahead in life rather than their brains.Women get a lot of benefits and preferential treatment just for the sake of being women.Beneficiant sexism is a big problem in societies like ours.Recommend

  • anoop m

    Real Gem ,this movie . Can’t believe Bollywood can also create such genuine thrillers . Hats off to the script writer and Director Ghosh. Reminds me of golden age of Bengali directors Satyajit ray , Basu Chatterjee , Hrishikesh Mukherjee etc of Anand , Abhimaan, Chupke Chupke Chupke ,Milli , Golmaal fame .Very well done review too . Must watch, my Pakistani friends .Recommend

  • Nandita.

    I agree ! Whattay Movie !! Fabulous. I could watch it over and over again.Recommend

  • swa

    madhuri dixit was not really an ‘actress’ and same goes for rekha.. both were eye candy singing and dancing throughout the movies.. if you must compare vidya balan to someone you should be calling her the modern day shabana azmi…Recommend

  • Parvez

    A movie with Vidya Balan is reason enough to watch. Reading this and the comments it becomes a must watch.
    @Zaid Hamid your comment cracked me up.Recommend

  • Waqas

    Classic movie.Fantastic story and direction and another stellar performance by my favourite vidya balanRecommend

  • ST

    I never thought the industry in Mumbai could produce such an intelligent thriller which held your suspense all the way to the end, and then, whoo, what a denouement! Then I noticed the cast (except Balan) crew location director are all from Bengal and this was only nominally a “Bollywood” movie. Go watch this movie, it’s not your typical “Jewel Thieffy’ crime thriller, this one a true whodunit presented in style.Recommend

  • from India

    Who is a better actor Konkona Sen or Vidya Balan ? Recommend

  • Bula

    Kahaani is a novelty for Bollywood. The big banners of bollywood should note that its the plot and the script that makes a good movie. thankfully in kolkata, we are blessed with few good movies made time and again which are at par with world movies. Thriller lovers please dont miss ‘Baishe Srabon’ (again starring Parambrata), its in bengali, so non-bengalese pls find a DVD with subtitles.Recommend

  • WTF

    Thanks for ruining all the movie for me. I didnt watch it yet, thanks for ruining my exprience in advance.Recommend

  • Indi-Pop

    Great review! Kahaani is ‘great cinema’ which Bollywood fans get to witness once in a blue moon! I Don’t miss it! Recommend

  • Cynical

    Just watched! It’s awesome! The director,actors,technicians the whole team has done a terrific job.Recommend