If you tore your hair out in despair while watching ‘Home Delivery’ and ‘Aladin’, don’t give up on Sujoy Ghosh yet. ‘Kahani’ is proof that this director, despite churning out some horrors in the past few years, has retained the talent we saw coming through in his first film Jhankaar Beats. A film woven around the story of a woman in search of her missing husband, Kahani is a well made film with the kind of story line that we love – a simple plot with an unthinkable twist in the tale!
Set entirely in Kolkata, the camera explores the myriad facets of the city well. The early morning rush; the traffic snarls and cacophony of car horns; the crumbling buildings in narrow by lanes of the north; the quaint but in dire need of paint trams; the quintessential Bengali ‘bhodrolok’ (and not so bhodro ones too!); the essence of Durgapujo and of course the complete disregard for the alphabet ‘V’ in the Bengali language come across clearly even to those who do not know much about the city or the language.
The characters are finely nuanced and you find them in their right place without any one sticking out like a sore thumb. A rarity indeed in commercial Hindi films in the era of hams and item numbers. The actors fit their roles beautifully which is half the job done. Vidya Balan is the hero who carries the film on her shoulders (she makes a habit of this), ably supported by Parambrata Chatterjee (who looks pretty tolerable sporting a moustache!), Nawazuddin Siddiqui (brilliant in a small but pivotal role) and Dhritiman Chatterjee. Indraneil Sengupta as the husband, is not too great but does not have much to do and hence does not detract from the overall impact of the film.
For me the real star of the film was Saswata Chatterjee. Never has Indian cinema created a villain who is as normal as ‘Bob Biswas’. He is a bit portly; looks completely harmless with a swarthy complexion, face perpetually shining with perspiration and a thinning crown of hair. He is officially an insurance agent and unofficially a smiling assassin. He kills happily and remorselessly, runs drunkenly and gets tired and dizzy! There is not a trace of menace in his looks and THAT is what makes him such a great negative character! The scriptwriter and director deserve a standing ovation for this one for sure.
The film is full of sweet and funny moments. Vidya’s camaraderie with the kids, the kids themselves who are genuinely sweet as kids should be and not the precocious brats you usually see on celluloid, the young policeman’s infatuation with the lady in distress, the guest house manager’s penchant for lapsing into ‘Queens English’ and much more that will keep you smiling.
A couple of things that struck me as strange were – (1) A pregnant woman who never seems to eat! Vidya is shown bathing and changing and drinking loads of water but not once does a morsel of food pass her lips. And this in a city that has food everywhere! (2) A software engineer and computer whiz who does not carry a laptop. I do not think a person like this exists, but hey this is a film after all and some creative license is allowed. (3) Just one point in the climax that I do not wish to put in here just because some of you may not have seen the film yet!
To sum it up, the movie is a complete entertainer and deserves to be watched by all.
Copyright © Tara Verma March 2012
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