Kahaani – A Joyride Through Kolkata
Every Bengali has two names – one daak naam (pet name) and another bhalo naam (the name used for official communications). A name reflects our identities, does the possession of two names reflect on our dual selves?
Bidya Bagchi lands in Kolkata at a time when the city was gearing up to immerse itself into annual celebration of the Divine Feminine. She was carrying with herself a piece of a riddle, in her womb, as she embarked on her journey to find her missing husband. Arnab (Bagchi?), her missing husband, had been to Calcutta for a project, and never returned.
A quest for truth that throws many unpalatable revelations on our face, a struggle for justice, the solemn pledge to walk on, even if alone, takes Bidya across the city of joy, to the most unpleasant places – a morgue, stealing files from a company at the dead of the night, the dark alleys of Khidirpur – and the near death experiences. But unmoved by all hurdles, Bidya triumphs over the odds.
The USP of Kahaani is Vidya Balan. She carries the film on her shoulder, delivering a near flawless performance. One would hardly believe she wasn’t pregnant after all. Supporting her throughout the film, Parambrata yet again delivers a role of a cop with brilliance. You could actually see glimpses of Baishe Srabon in his portrayal of Rana. Even in his cameo, Swaswata Chatterjee proves why he is the best actor in town when it comes to delivering on facial emotions, with only a dialogue or two.
Kahaani would have been unimaginable had it been based in any other city, shot at any other time of the year. The backdrop of Durga Pujo, juxtaposed to the mental turmoil of a woman in distress suffices for great cinematic irony. Kolkata comes alive in Sujoy Ghosh’s film. South Kolkata has never been captured so beautifully and in such a rustic elegance, ever before in any film. The closest i think of would obviously be Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s Antaheen, but that was a poetic cinematography. Kahaani is real.
The nuances of the city, the small innuendos, the Ba-Va paradox, the sweet little nothings that get exchanged between Rana and Bidya – all these make for a pleasurable two hour joy ride, a befitting tribute to the city of lost heritage. The thrill keeps one glued to the seats, although almost certain of what is coming. The suspense of the plot is given away in the first scene of Vidya at police station itself, if one is paying careful attention.
Had it not been for the obnoxious rendition of “Ekla Chalo Re”, Kahaani could have got full marks in music too. But alas, some legacies are better not tampered with. And for a Bengali music lover, tampering with Tagore is sacrilege. Having said that, i was almost hoping for a Ustad Rashid Khan aalaap when droplets from the sky drenched the screen.
In many ways, Kahaani is similar to Baishe Srabon (although, written and filmed much earlier). If i were to point out the similarities here, that would amount to giving away the plot, which i dare not. It would be advisable to my readers to watch Baishe Srabon too before jumping into conclusions.
The triumph of good over evil, and the extents to which we must have to at times to attain that goal, blurs the line separating the rotten fish from the pond. That is when, the divinities take it upon themselves to invoke the power of the Goddess. But even the divine return to her abode after a stay of four days; cleansing the earth of the unholy.
So, does Bidya find her husband? Does she need to, i ask!
My Rating – 3.5/5
P.S. I hope and pray that Kolkata never faces the calamity that marks the beginning of this film. Let her always be THE city of JOY.