Kahaani (Sujoy Ghosh, 2012)
There’s not a lot I can say about Kahaani without entirely ruining much of its deliciousness: this is a twist-laden, deceptive little thriller of a film, and a mostly satisfying one at that. If you’ve heard anything about it at all, it’s probably along the lines of “the less you know going in, the better”. Take this as a mild SPOILER ALERT then –if, like me, you’d prefer not to know even a shred of information, even if it is seemingly innocuous, then quit reading now.
What I can say without giving away too much of the plot is that the film is centred around Vidya Bagchi (Vidya Balan), a heavily pregnant woman who travels from London to Kolkata in search of her missing husband.
When she arrives in India, Kolkata is in the midst of Durga Puja celebrations – oppressive, colourful, overwhelmingly festive, and shot absolutely beautifully in all its rioutous chaotic splendour – and Vidya finds her investigations into her husband’s whereabouts blocked at every turn, rapidly ushering the film into a noir-ish mystery zone.
I can’t say much more about the story for fear of giving away any of the genuinely thrilling twists. I’m one of those people who isn’t necessarily trying to figure out everything 3 steps ahead – I’m happy to get caught up in the action and be surprised as the rug is swept out from under my feet – and for me, the pace and narrative structure of the film was near perfect: peppered with just enough subtle hints and clues that afterwards you can look back and wonder how you missed the obvious all along.
In terms of the performances: Vidya Balan has received a bucketload of acclaim and attention for The Dirty Picture already (I film I really didn’t love but acknowledge she was great in); Kahaani just consolidates further her position as the strongest working actress in Bollywood at the moment – and I really can’t wait to see what else she does. Parambrata Chatterjee was the other standout for me as Rana, the absolutely adorable local cop helping/protecting Vidya as she conducts her investigations into the whereabouts of her missing husband.
The other thing to note: Kahaani doesn't have any conventional Bollywood song picturisations or "item numbers" (honestly, I don't know where they would go) and the music in the film is mainly relegated to the background, so you'd be forgiven if you were unaware that the film ACTUALLY DOES HAVE A KICKASS SOUNDTRACK by Vishal-Shekhar. I urge you to check it out as well as the film.