Time and again during our viewing of the new Hindi film Kahaani (Vidya Balan et al), we rubbed our eyes in disbelief.
Disturbing questions continued to nag us over the course of the two-hour-long film.
Were we in the right hall?
Has this superb thriller really been made by those amateurish, thieving Indian filmmakers who week after week churn out unwatchable garbage filched from decades-old Hollywood plots?
And finally, did we win the Lotto today?
Kahaani – A Bollywood Rara Avis
As is our wont when we head out to see a Bollywood film, we entered the hall showing Kahaani with low expectations.
But mere minutes into the movie we realized that we were watching a Bollywood aberration.
Kahaani is not one of those atrocities that the shaitan Khans, bumbling Bachchans, thieving Devgns and the mindless Kumars routinely inflict on you.
Au contraire, this is a meticulously crafted thriller that has you engrossed with the extraordinary drama unfolding on the screen.
Our bladders were close to bursting but despite the agony we dared not step out during the brief interval for fear of missing anything should the movie re-start in our absence.
Such was the powerful spell Kahaani cast on us.
That Vidya Balan is among the finest actresses in India today needs no elaboration.
An outsider in an incestuous industry, the young lady has won encomiums and awards for her performances in Parineeta, Ishqiya, No One Killed Jessica and Dirty Picture.
Kahaani’s great merit is to juxtapose Vidya Balan’s remarkable acting with the trifecta of a gripping story, fine photography and overall brilliant execution by director Sujoy Ghosh.
Just when you settle down into the upholstery in the sure belief that the story is headed down a certain path, Ghosh yanks you out of your comfort zone with some remarkable twists.
Ghosh also shares credit for the story (with Advaita Kala). And the writing is, oh, so stellar.
The central focus of the film, at least in the beginning, is on a pregnant NRI woman’s relentless search for her missing husband.
Vidya Balan plays Vidya Venkateshan Bagchi, a pregnant woman and software engineer from London, who comes to Kolkata in search of her missing spouse Arnab Bagchi.
Every turn Vidya takes in Kolkata, she runs into a wall.
Is Arnab alive? Is Arnab dead?
Did Arnab really come to Kolkata? Has Arnab abandoned Vidya?
Answers are few and resistance to Vidya’s search high.
Kahaani is not one of those juvenile Bollywood romcoms with item numbers featuring skimpily clad babes.
A richly layered Hindi film, Kahaani has few Bollywood parallels in recent years. And not merely in the thriller genre.
Sujoy Ghosh and his co-writers weave into Vidya’s search for Arnab today’s hot subject – the terrorism angle.
The movie is on steroids now.
Guns are fired.
Contract killers are on the prowl.
Key people start dying.
Computers are hacked in a desperate search for evidence.
And there’s insistent talk of a mole high up in the Indian Intelligence Bureau ranks working with the enemy.
Of course, Vidya’s life is in danger.
The tension mounts.
To our great joy, Kahaani is not a predictable story.
Compared to the Kahaani screenplay, SRK’s Don 2 with its Junglee Billee and assorted nonsense looks amateurish and downright silly.
Kudos to the entire Kahaani team for a delightful outing at the movies.
Who Else But Vidya?
None but Vidya Balan could have done justice to this demanding role.
To even contemplate an alternative like Kareena Kapoor, Katrina Kaif or that jonah Priyanka Chopra makes us want to throw up our lunch in disgust.
But to credit Vidya Balan alone would be a grave injustice to the rest of Kahaani’s talented cast and crew.
Her co-stars, particularly Parambrata Chatterjee as the rookie policeman Rana, Nawazuddin Siddiqui as the harried Intelligence Bureau officer Khan, Saswata Chatterjee as as the ‘LIC Agent’ Bob Biswas turn in equally compelling performances.
Man, these tired old eyes haven’t feasted on a fine Bollywood thriller like Kahaani in years, if ever.
Your favorite blog SearchIndia.com strongly recommends Kahaani.
Kahaani is playing at several Regal and AMC theaters on the East Coast in the U.S.