What is Kahaani all about? Kahaani is, well, about a fiction…erm…a story. Kahaani, technically speaking, is also about storytelling…as in how to tell a story…Well, Kahaani is also about fabrication, what fiction usually does…and the truth literally turns out to be stranger than fiction…a truth which is fictive, but not impossible. And like all good kahaanis, Kahaani too unfolds catalyzing in every reel a nail-biting curiosity of “What happens next”, finally leaving you bewildered, baffled, and confounded. Once the initial bewilderment wanes and the kahaani sinks in (both these happen in a jiffy), a deep pleasure is all that you feel: it’s akin to having finding your way out of a bemusing labyrinth on your own. Sujoy Ghosh and Advaita Kala (in association with Suresh Nair and Nikhil Vyas) have done a marvellous job! Namrata Rao’s scissors and adhesive have cut and joined the frames with remarkable adroitness attributing to the narrative just the right kind of pace.
The film has employed the mother-motif to an unforeseen effect: a pregnant woman in search of her husband. Sympathy rarely rains on her, as she finds herself caught in a quagmire of dangerous crimes that lurk in the underbelly of an apparently warm city. Kahaani tells a hitherto untold story of Kolkata, jolting the audience into an awareness of evil that resides in the interstices of the city. Here, Kolkata is no longer the romantic city of Tagore’s poetry and rosogolla revolving around the pleasant colonial hangover of the Victoria Memorial; nor is it the city of the unassuming Bengali bhadrolok. In fact, on closer observation, the city does not seem to belong to Bengalis any more. Ghosh de-romanticizes Kolkata to an extent no Bollywood film has ever does. The brief prefatory fragment metonymically related to the main narrative invokes an anxiety about the city that is increasingly intensified not to be resolved ever. A sense of uneasiness refuses to desert you long after the curtains come down. I was half in mind to avoid the Metro while returning home. Kahaani has ended up defamiliarizing Kolkata sufficiently. The Benjaminian concept of the city as labyrinth has hereby acquired a new dimension.
Vidya Balan enacts a pregnant mother with so much credibility that, well…you know…I mean she carries the baby bump really well. The way she walks, the anxiety of not finding her husband that grows with every passing moment and in her lighter moments with the two children (Vishnu and Poltu)…Vidya, erm, Bidya is perhaps the most believable of all on-screen carrying moms we have seen so far. Next year too the National Award for the Best Actor (Female) should be in her custody. Thanks to Roshmi Banerjee, the casting director. Parambrata, Kharaj, Dhritiman, Nazawuddin Siddiqui and Shantilaal are perfect choices for the roles they have essayed. However, it is Saswata Chatterjee who steals the show, cold-bloodedly. I still feel goose-bumps as I think of his Bob Biswas.
Kahaani is after all based on an age-old theme; I wont tell you which. But it has been given such a makeover that you do not realize that all along you were watching a known story. That’s why I said in the beginning that Kahaani is also about “how to tell a tale”. One of the best films in the recent years, Kahaani deserves no less than a nine out of ten in all the categories, except perhaps in the musical one. In any case, music is not its mainstay. It’s the kahaani!