Friday, March 09, 2012


Ah Kolkata!

There are reasons to rejoice: it’s not often that film can be wholeheartedly recommended.  Then, it’s yet another film with a woman at the centre and like Vidya Balan’s much-feted The Dirty Picture, it is likely win both awards and acclaim.  Hopefully, it will help Bollywood traditionalists to give women more respect... since in showbiz, it’s all about money.

Sujoy Ghosh has hit his groove after a couple of misses (Home Delivery, Aladdin), and it is obvious Kolkata is his muse.  Plus Vidya Balan of course, who sportingly waddles through the film (and at promotional events) with a huge pregnancy bump.  It is the Kolkata of clichés, and if a film is not set during the madness of Durga Puja, it might as well be shot anywhere else.  It is perhaps the clichés that give the city its unique character and Ghosh, along with his adventurous cinematographer Setu, jump right into it like deep sea divers, coming up with visual pearls each time. The noise, chaos, grimy beauty and warmth of Kolkata is seen with a connoisseur’s eye, as sharply drawn as the perfectly cast characters who come alive with just a couple of deft strokes.

Heavily pregnant Vidya Bagchi (Balan) lands in Kolkata from London, to look for her husband, clutching just one photo of Arnab Bagchi (Indraneil Sengupta).  At Kalighat police station, a newly recruited cop Rana (Parambrata Chatterjee) takes a shine to her, and becomes her helper, sounding board and lock-picker as she goes from high tech offices to scary morgues to spooky old buildings trying to find clues about the man who seems not to exist. Then, tough-talking Intelligence Bureau man Khan (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) walks in, and there is added another layer or menace, intrigue and suspense. (The film does make IB men look like nincompoops!)

To reveal more would be unfair to the film, butKahaani is very enjoyable, even though the script  (Ghosh, Advaita Kala, Suresh Nair, Ritesh Shah) does not quite stand up to scrutiny if you start wondering how and why.  However, every aspect of filmmaking from camera to sound, editing, music and design come together to create a marvellous audience-pleaser.  It is one of the best films in recent years and nobody can possibly dislike it—even after the ‘cheats’ are finally revealed in a somewhat predictable Durga-slaying-Demon climax that no Bengali director making a heroine-centric film in Kolkata can resist.

Vidya Balan is at a high point in her career and it is to her credit that she is picking films that are doing justice to her own talent and helping women in Bollywood films evolve. Parambrata Chatterjee, as the kind, gentle cop is adorable and so heartbreaking in his loneliness, expressed with just one tired “Aaschi” on the phone. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is amazingly expressive as the cop who wants to sympathise with Vidya, but can’t.  Rana’s fat, jolly colleague, the ordinary insurance selling assassin, the smart kids, the guest house manager, the HR manager—all wonderful actors whose names one doesn’t know. 

Never mind the small niggles, just go watch the film.  If films like Kahaani succeed, only then will the state of Bollywood cinema improve.  We owe it to ourselves.


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