A lean, engrossing thriller that keeps you guessing.
Thrillers in Bollywood are often diluted with a lot of bloat, unnecessary romantic subplots and the inclusion of jarring musical numbers that strip away the tension. But once in a while, there comes an exception. ‘Kahaani’, starring Vidya Balan, is that film. It’s a lean and engrossing whodunit that is continually engaging with memorable characters and a twist ending that’s far-fetched but cements the film as one of the best thrillers from the region in quite some time.
The film follows Vidya Bagchi (Vidya Balan), a pregnant woman who comes to Kolkata in the search of her missing husband Arnab who had come to the city from London to do an assignment but never reached back to her. As she co-ordinates with the local police, she realises that there is no record of Arnab ever being there in the city. Beginning to realize that there’s another person here who her husband’s disappearance may be linked to, she begins to investigate the matter further and falls deeper into a conspiracy which may make her question her own sanity.
The concept here itself is pretty intriguing – a woman investigate the disappearance of a person that she has no record of ever existing. It’s not totally new because Hollywood thrillers like Jodie Foster’s ‘Flightplan’ have done variations of this, but it’s a compliment to ‘Kahaani’ that it executes it much better than that film. The one thing going for the film from the get-go is the lean pacing that doesn’t waste time on subplots and engages the viewer in its mystery and how things are unfolding. It takes a page from classic Alfred Hitchcock thrillers that preach that momentum should never be dropped when it comes to a mystery. The screenplay is devoid of any songs and that’s a rarity in Hindi cinema nowadays. The supporting characters here are actually well fleshed out and not just exposition devices for the most part, with the highlight being a contract killer who isn’t anything like how movies usually show them to be. Instead of being this suave bad-ass in a suit, he’s an untidy and chubby middle aged guy who does the white collar job of a life insurance agent in the day and kills when asked to do so. This unconventional treatment itself makes him the most interesting character in the film that actually will creep you out in many scenes.
Twists and turns are the other things that the movie delivers upon, and keeps the audience guessing at all times. At the right points of the film, the viewer is treated to plot twist and new developments that change the direction of the story and negate the stuff you’ve been guessing for the ending before. Which is good, because it keeps the film from being predictable and make it seem more thought-out. Speaking of the ending though, there’s a pretty major twist ending at the end of the film that will definitely surprise you and makes this movie a memorable experience. But at the same time, it takes it into more far-fetched territory than the movie that came before it, which leads to few plot holes and logic issues that would require a good amount of suspension of disbelief from your side. Add to that the fact that the movie should have ended right at that moment but goes into melodrama mode for a few more minutes and wears out the impact of the twist. But nonetheless, you’re bound to be impressed by the twist ending more than you would be annoyed.
Vidya Balan is recently coming off her National Award and this is another movie that she proves that she’s one of the best working actresses in Bollywood, which is a film industry that direly needs proficient actresses. ‘Kahaani’ is a film that is entirely built around her with no other name actor in the film, which is quite a rare thing in Bollywood since actresses usually play second fiddle to big-name actors there. But this gives her the opportunity to prove her worth once again and she plays her role with a lot of confidence and charm. She carries the film on her shoulders and looks very authentic in the role of a pregnant women, which she clearly researched a lot about. The rest of the cast is excellent in their roles as well and are character actors who are actual Bengalis cast in appropriate roles.
‘Kahaani’ is a rarity in Indian cinema – a no-song thriller that keeps you guessing and is built upon a strong screenplay rather than an item number. Sure, the ending might be kind of a stretch but that hardly negates what came before it. This Kahaani is more than worth telling.