A twisted tale – reviewing Kahaani

Written by  //  March 16, 2012  //  Media & Popular Culture  //  8 Comments

A point which has bothered me time and again about professional killers in movies is that often they are shown dressed and acting like black cat commandos or scary muscle men. This does not make sense. A successful professional killer would need to look like a harmless guy. He would need to blend in. You don’t have to be super fit or super agile to be a professional killer and if you actually have to kill someone with your bare hands, you obviously don’t know your work. This is why Bob Biswas is a perfect contract killer. He works as an insurance agent. His job would require him to travel to the nooks and corners of the city and probably he’d know the city well. It would also be a good cover if he is found trying to get into someone’s house forcefully. That is what insurance agents do anyways, since insurance (not much unlike murder) is a subject matter of persuasion. Bob Biswas has been perfectly cast and every time he appears on the screen smiling and says, “Won Minute” you get the same sort of sinking feeling which Javier Bardem inspired in No Country for Old Men.

 

Casting is one of the many areas which sets Kahaani apart from the regular bollywood stuff. Except Vidya Balan, almost the entire cast is Bengali and unknown to the Hindi cinema audience. It works well because we cannot guess the intentions of the characters or their appetite for violence or pressure. Parambrata Chatterjee who plays sub inspector Rana and is the literal and metaphorical chariot driver of Vidya does a remarkable work of being likable. It is a very desirable quality in supporting actors and you either have it or you don’t. You don’t even have to say a dialogue and still can make the audience like you and feel that they can trust you. Parambrata Chatterjee has that quality, Tushaar Kapoor doesn’t. Of course, Parambrata Chatterjee can act as well. As Rana he is naïve, sincere, careful and a perfect support for Vidya in her quest to search for her missing husband. The film treads quite gently in a couple of subtle scenes of Rana being enamoured with Vidya. Clearly, she is married and visibly pregnant and he wants her to find her husband. It is a delicate emotion and has been handled quite delicately.

The other two supporting actors with small roles are the manager of a run down guest house where Vidya stays and an overweight, overtly laid back but good intentioned police inspector. These actors are so natural and quintessential Bengalis (no offence intended and vast ignorance acknowledged) that I’d be shocked to see them in any other movie as any other characters. The weakest actor probably is the guy who plays, Khan, the second in command of the Intelligence Bureau who smokes too many cigarettes and carries too much arrogance to lend a sense of credibility to his character or acting.

I have written in detail about the supporting actors probably because already quite a bit has been written about Vidya and deservedly so. Playing her namesake, Vidya Bagchi, it is difficult to imagine any other Indian actress who could have played the role with such grace or control. It is quite rare in a Hindi movie to see a pregnant woman in a leading role and that too where the movie is not about her being pregnant although it is a critical plot device. She commands more admiration than the sympathies of the audience. The movie has to be credited for not exploiting her situation. Even when it appears that she is all on her own, and although you feel concerned for her, there is enough steel in her eyes for you to not feel sorry for her.

The movie, shot beautifully, showcases a contemporary Calcutta in its most vibrant and gritty colours. The film seems to absorb a large part of its menace from the contradictions of the city. From old crumbling houses to dark metro stations and the maddening crowds of durga pooja, every shade of the city adds to the story. The story itself is quite capable. Like all good thrillers, it works on two levels. There is a vulnerable Vidya looking for her missing husband in an alien and difficult city and there is something sinister and gravely important lurking around. And the two are somehow connected, or are they? There are some points where the story seems to have become a bit stretched specially when some things seem more coincidental than what they should have been, but it still never gets absurd or simplistic. Again, like all good thrillers, when the suspense is revealed, you realise that the clues were there all along and still you were kept guessing and the final payoff feels well earned and not a case of a rabbit being pulled out of the hat as is the case with most of the Abbas Mastan movies.

To sum up, Kahaani is a well acted, suitably cast, beautifully shot, smartly written and capably directed, suspense thriller. I cannot remember the last time all these words could have been used to describe a Hindi film. Please watch; else don’t complain that they don’t make good movies in India.

 

8 Comments on "A twisted tale – reviewing Kahaani"

  1. Alok March 17, 2012 at 3:23 am ·

    Loved the movie except for one thing…

    Satyaki is NOT Arjuna’s charioteer!!! It’s Krishna! How could they forget the most iconic image of Indian myth?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satyaki

  2. AM March 17, 2012 at 9:30 am ·

    Awesomeeeee 🙂

  3. Nilanjana March 17, 2012 at 11:45 am ·

    @Alok – Krishna was Arjuna’s charioteer in Mahabharata. 🙂

  4. Harsh March 19, 2012 at 11:29 am ·

    Fantastic Review! Really look forward to watching it now!

  5. Tanu April 4, 2012 at 6:13 pm ·

    BEAUtiful post…seriously amazing…its like….u wrote whatever I was thinking….every word of it…

    You don’t even have to say a dialogue and still can make the audience like you and feel that they can trust you. Parambrata Chatterjee has that quality, Tushaar Kapoor doesn’t.

    every time he appears on the screen smiling and says, “Won Minute” you get the same sort of sinking feeling

    OMG..each line of urs…is so very…..’me’…………..:)

  6. Tanu April 4, 2012 at 6:15 pm ·

    The film treads quite gently in a couple of subtle scenes of Rana being enamoured with Vidya. Clearly, she is married and visibly pregnant and he wants her to find her husband. It is a delicate emotion and has been handled quite delicately.

    I completely agree!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    http://doveranalyst.blogspot.in/

  7. Anonymous June 2, 2012 at 1:57 pm ·

    awesome movie……….:)
    i luved it…<3<3
    hats off 2 vidya 4r playing her role perfectly n bringing the movie alive onscreen….
    n also hats off 2 sujoy ghosh 4r giving bollywood such a thriller

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