By Budhaditya Dasgupta(19 Mar 2012)
We have heard of black-ops undercover agent from CIA, KGB, DA etc, etc.. But probably for the first time in the history of Indian film industry we have a film where Intelligence Buro of India and National Data Center of India have been brought in main stream cinema. Kahaani is a nifty thriller with an enjoyment quotient that is indirectly proportionate to how long you spend thinking about the plot. It has a clear one line plot - a woman in search of her missing husband. And the filmmaker has promoted that well enough in the promos itself. So it becomes really important to maintain the attention of the audience and keep the thrill quotient high. Sujoy Ghosh excels in both the departments.
Kahaani is the story of Vidya Bagchi, a software programmer from London played by Vidya Balan, who is both heavily pregnant and missing a husband. She arrives in Kolkata and heads straight to the police station from the airport - a fact remarked upon by the cab driver who is intrigued and bemused by her. So are the cops. Vidya insists on staying at a seedy guesthouse, which proudly advertises running hot water because the employees include a young boy who runs to the rooms with a kettle of hot water. Vidya is helped in her quest by an earnest cop Rana, played by Parambrata Chattopadhyay. But her husband seems to have disappeared into thin air - there are no school records, no relatives, no immigration records for Arnab Bagchi. Director Sujoy Ghosh, who has co-written the story with Advaita Kala, keeps the tension tight and the volte-faces, frequent. Early in the film, Rana tells Vidya that everyone in Kolkata has two names, which here literally translates into two separate identities. So no one is what he claims to be. I especially enjoyed the unveiling of a dumpy-looking insurance agent. Ghosh cleverly uses Vidya's pregnancy - every time she trips or even sweats too hard, you become afraid - and the city of Kolkata to engage us in his story. All the tourist attractions from Victoria Memorial to Howrah Bridge to Durga Puja are duly ticked off. But this is the first time the city seems dangerous and ominously frenzied - so much that even getting a cab at the airport is fraught with strain.
One of the key elements in Kahaani is its casting. Except for Vidya Balan, the rest of the cast is either new or from the Bengali film industry. Each and every actor excels in the film and is a perfect fit to the role. A special mention of Nawazuddin Siddiqui who does an outstanding job as the crude and stern intelligence officer Ayaz Khan. Even Parambatta Chattopadhyay with his innocent smiles and matured expressions was aptly chosen for the role of Rana, an intelligent Assistant Sub inspector.
The frame of the view was very cleverly focused on the characters to keep the viewers engrossed to the story. Wide angles were used very few times to capture the city. However at times various aspects of Kolkata were projected which did not have any relevance to the story. Director Sujoy Ghosh has cleverly used the frame to take the viewers on a tour around Kolkata while narrating the story.
More than the ending climax, where the entire mystery unveils itself, the last shot before the interval deserves special mention. Mrs Bagchi being pushed in front of the running metro rail. It does create a shock on the viewers however soon to realize the fact that how can the lead actor of the story die without completing the mission. To be honest, while watching a movie, human realization of the obvious takes a back seat and hence 95% of the viewers came rushing back from the refreshment area even before the lights were turned out.
Screen play and story: well I must say that story writer Sujoy Ghosh, Advaita Kala has done a commendable job of taking in to account the integrities of the undercover agents training and their attention to details while spinning the story around those behaviors. At any place basic black-ops training requires the individual to observe number of people present, objects that can be used as rout maps, exit points, understand human psyche and use all of these to adapt themselves to the surroundings. Mrs. Bagchi’s reference to the blue peacock at the guest house: she did observe the statue while entering the guest house. She used the information of the school where Vishnu used to visit to her benefit. Wiping all figure prints and leave no traces behind. Tea glasses in Milind’s room – the local tea vendor will have information about Milind. In the last scene the one arm blow to the knee and driving the pencil down Milind’s dragon vein – ordinary people knows about it but executing the same requires special combat training. Hats off to the writers.
Vidya Balan delivered a near perfect pregnant woman with occasionally falling out of breath, walking with legs apart. However many times her brisk walks through the narrow lanes of Kolkata and fast paced actions made me question is she really pregnant? That got answered by the end of the movie.
The movie keeps the viewers at the edge of their seats trying to predict the twist in the tale which makes them over look directorial mistakes: Milind testing the deadly gas on the animals – acceptable, terrorists do that however the gas deadly enough to kill human-beings should not be tested with only a breath mask usually this requires a whole body suit specially when it’s evident that the terrorist has access to a testing lab. All special agents are trained to take out their hand weapon and to remove the safety lock with only one move and in the movie Milind, a trained special black-ops agent, removes the gun and we hear the sound of the safety lock removal much later. After breaking Milinds’ leg, Mrs. Bagchi finds his gun and the magazine on the ground next to each other. Did Milind forget to load the gun before taking off the safety lock? Or was this deliberately done so that Mrs. Bagchi can load the gun make the cocking sound before killing the villain? Well MR Sujoy Ghosh would be the right person to answer this
Background score: “Ami Shotti Bolchi” & “Akla Cholo Re” created magic with Kolkata on the back drop and Vidya Balan taking the entire film on her own shoulders and delivering yet another brilliant performance. The background score during the climax scenes had traces of “The Bourne Trilogy” theme.