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.
Sir try watching ‘Paan singh tomar’. You’d love it! must be playing in your area..
Sweetie, we just checked a few theatres in NY & NJ.
Paan Singh Tomar is not playing anywhere now. Even last week, it had only a limited release.
We like Irrfan Khan. We were among the first to watch Irrfan’s Namesake at the Paris theater in NYC and review it. – http://www.searchindia.com/2007/03/09/the-namesake-lovely-movie/
Wow!! you have made me curious about Kahaani. I wonder why I end up watching junk such as Ekk Deewana Tha or London Paris New York!? 🙁
It doesn’t look like Kahaani is playing in either of the American theaters in your area. Only in Niles.
IT HAS NOT RELEASED HERE.. AIYYO
Didn’t realize Bollywood films released even in your tiny country. Hmmmm.
Glanced over TOI’s review of Kahani and the first line was “Vidya Bagchi, a pregnant woman, comes in search of her husband only to be told he doesn’t exist” or something close to this.!!
Is this a spoiler?
I’ve always felt that the clowns in TOI or Deccan Chronicle are truly unfit to write reviews as they reveal too much plot details, even important plot twists.
1. You write: Glanced over TOI’s review of Kahani and the first line was “Vidya Bagchi, a pregnant woman, comes in search of her husband only to be told he doesn’t exist” or something close to this.!!
Is this a spoiler?
Hmmmmm…..we don’t want to answer your question for fear that our response could itself be a spoiler. Seriously.
Even if you don’t understand Hindi, you can still enjoy Kahaani because the film has English subtitles. We assume theatres in South India now screen Hindi films with subtitles.
2. We agree a lot of reviewers (including Hollywood film reviewers here) give away the entire story instead of tantalizing tidbits.
Just as SI singing paeans of vidya balan for her performance in Kahaani, the whole nation celebrated women’s day in an slightly embarrassing manner.
In almost all of the channels, vidya balan became one of the most influential women of the nation by incidentally claiming national award for “dirty picture” yesterday.
Now the question boggling many middle class Indians mind is that “does national award jury has become that dirty?”.
No matter, how much would anyone justify her role demanded that dose of glamour to pull it off, you can’t run way from the fact that the movie’s selling proposition was “sex” and sex only.
For a nation, which had cherished many accomplished women talent internationally like mother teresa, sister nivedita, was it all the more difficult to choose a role model this women’s day other than VB?
It’s no wonder,that press and media are ruining the younger generation by proclaiming these scantily dressed actresses and cricketers as their role models.
1. You write: For a nation, which had cherished many accomplished women talent internationally like mother teresa, sister nivedita, was it all the more difficult to choose a role model this women’s day other than VB?
This obsession with celebrities is sickening.
Surely, there are women (and men too) in India working quietly, far from the limelight, and trying their utmost to improve the lives of the less privileged sections, one poor soul at a time.
2. You write: press and media are ruining the younger generation by proclaiming these scantily dressed actresses and cricketers as their role models.
That’s rubbish and we disagree completely with your point.
Press and media are not ruining the younger generation.
In India, as elsewhere, the press/media in their pursuit of profits often tends to follow the readers/audience’s taste and pander to them.
The press in India, as elsewhere (UK, for example with their voracious appetite for tabloids), is merely giving the people what they crave. Mostly, the media does not lead but merely follow people’s taste, however low they may run.
If titillation is the low road to high profit, then so be it seems to be the credo of most sections of the media everywhere in the 21st century!
It’s like the Bollywood movies.
Why are most Indian movies rotten?
Simple answer – Indians love to watch crap and chomp on the bits of drunk-driving murderers like Salman Khan or incompetent idiots like Shahrukh Khan or delight in Katrina Kaif shaking her booty and boobies like a two-bit wanton slut.
That’s what keeps the cash registers ringing, not a Paan Singh Tomar or a Ishqiya.
3. BTW, we wish to make it clear yet again that Vidya Balan is not the sole reason for Kahaani being a fine movie.
Vidya Balan was merely unus inter pares (one among equals) in Kahaani.
It’s the all-round effort by the entire cast and crew, starting with director Sujoy Ghosh and the writers, that turned the movie into a delight.
I think this story is inspired by a Sydney Sheldon novel, its not original!
Please be more specific.
Not just “I think” or “My Uncle said”…..blah blah blah.
Malayalam film actor Jagathy Sreekumar met with a serious accident when the car in which he was travelling crashed into the median and over turned, in Calicut, a city in Kerala.
However, after undergoing emergency surgery, doctors say his condition is stable, although he’s still in ventilator support for the next 48 hours.
The accident took place in the wee hours of Saturday.
Saw Jagathy in a YouTube link you’d posted a few weeks back.
Warning: Big Spoilers here
Since we bought Indian groceries worth more than $100, the store owner offered 1 free hindi movie. I saw about a dozen DVD covers and briefly read the synopsis on the back of the DVDs, and then finally had a gut feeling that Kahaani’s story and mostly bengali crews would surely be an offbeat, non-bollywood style movie.
And I was right!! I really enjoyed the movie with a strong cast and a nice thriller plot. But I did have 2 complaints in Kahaani.
(1) The Screenplay:- I thought the screen play was not very smooth and effortless and it could have been a little better. Now I was watching this movie on a pirated DVD (u know how someone goes to the cinema hall with a camcorder and captures the movie on it and then makes DVDs out of it??). Also the movie was not fitting fully on my TV frame and little parts of it from all sides were outside of my TV frame. Is that the reason why I felt like that about the screenplay? What’s your take on the screenplay of the movie?
(2) The Ending:- Although it had an unpredictable twist in the ending, I thought that idea a little weird. A terrorist who managed to hide from the police for 2 years and left no tracks behind, would be brought out just by a pregnant lady and decides to meet her in a public area just to obtain some files?? What do u say SI??
But nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie..a great offbeat and unconventional attempt by b’wood :-))
Warning: Big Spoilers here
1. Your second point is the biggest shortcoming of the movie.
While writing the review we wanted to include it but then decided against it because it’d reveal the biggest twist in the movie.
That such a highly trained terrorist would be so easily brought down by an ordinary woman (even one hellbent on revenge) beggars belief.
2. We thought the screenplay was pretty decent overall. Seemed smooth on the big screen. Nothing jarring, at least not in a very irritating manner.
But one thing we were not too pleased to see was some of the humor elements involving Vidya’s interaction with the two kids (Running Hot Water aka Bishnu & later the chai-walla). Seemed odd given the overall context of a pregnant woman under serious stress.
We strongly recommend SI readers see Kahaani in the movie hall. A matinee show at Regal or AMC should be around $8 or less.
Now that u liked it, i hope u will like anukokunda oka roju, a well made thriller. directed by chandrasekhar yeleti of Aithe fame.
Right now, we’re torn between watching two great choices – Ragada (Nagarjuna, Anushka) and AppudAppudu (Raja, Shreya Reddy). 😉
I saw 3 movies – Mouna Guru, Yuddham Sei and Aanmai Thavareal, in bits and peices on Roku – Channel Live over the past 1 week. Not bad thrillers by usual standards but all 3 begin well and start faltering in the second half… either it drags or meanders to a stereotyped conclusion.
Alas, Channel Live ain’t working on our Roku.
It requires a subscription.
Too many streaming choices. We already pay for Mela & Netflix DVD.
I don’t know about Mouna Guru or Aanmai Thavarael but Yudham Sei had one great flaw, maybe it’s also the achilles heel of the movie. As far as I can remember, I figured out who the killer was right in the first 20 minutes and by the end of the first half, you could also easily guess the motive. In short, it fails miserably in maintaining the suspense.
But despite this flaw, the first half is racy but the second half tends to drag although I felt that the director did a good job in justifying the motive behind the murders..!!
Aadukalam and Vaagai Sooda Vaa(this year’s best tamil film winner) also started off well and then faltered into dull climaxes. Both movies have good songs.
Aadukalam’s songs were it’s undoing.. making the movie too long. VSV songs helped the movie, but the director didn’t know how to close it as quaintly as it started.
Will dabble with Channel Live today.
I watched live Asia Cup cricket (India won a match, yay!)on LankaTV — The penultimate and antepenultimate channels are sports channels.
I feel Aadukalam climax is one of the best – None of the characters of the protagonists change till the end.
Have you seen Aadukalam, SI? It is a dark movie – decent one that revolves around human jealousy.
You write: Have you seen Aadukalam, SI?
Most of the Tamil movies we’ve seen are either of the Rahukalam (bad) or Yamagandakalam (terrible) variety! 😉
Will watch soon.
Raving reviews all over!
Can’t wait to watch it in the weekend!!
Sujoy Ghosh gave an interview about various aspects of Kahaani recently to The Telegraph: http://www.telegraphindia.com/1120314/jsp/entertainment/story_15245793.jsp.
If my memory is accurate, one thing was incorrectly stated in the movie. Satyaki was never Arjun’s charioteer (that was Krishna). He was Arjun’s best friend and Krishna’s devotee and a member of the Yadav dynasty. I initially thought that the fact was deliberately misstated and was meant to be an angle in the plot, but nothing of that sort happened.
1. Good interview. Thanks.
2. On the Satyaki error, yes, a mistake but a trivial one when you consider the big picture.
Do you read novels?
I’m halfway through Michael Crichton’s Timeline. Very interesting read. I normally don’t read novels much as I felt I don’t have the patience to sit through one. But I just thought I’d give this one a chance and after the first few pages, I got hooked.
After this, I plan on reading Ken Follet’s Code to Zero.
You write: Do you read novels?
In a distant era, we used to.
But lately our reading has been restricted to non-fiction stuff.
Recently, we completed Inside Apple.
We’re now re-reading Nabokov’s Lolita and plan to read his Pale Fire after that.
BTW, we’ve read Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain but don’t remember a thing. Perhaps, it’ll come back if we read a few pages.
Finally saw this movie yesterday.
Thoroughly enjoyed it, superb direction.
Even the pride (of accomplishment) with which she walks into the crowd towards the end of the movie has been captured beautifully.
Kahaani must be the first woman-oriented movie in India to sell without the prop of sex!
Watched it at last. Felt that the plot was not very believable, but I guess it was OK for an Indian movie.
Some elements of Kahaani seem to be inspired from The Usual Suspects.
Have you watched it?
Yes, as we told you on Dec 5, 2009.
You have written that Kahaani is a Bollywood rara avis, but can you comment as to where it stands among the numerous thrillers in world cinema?
Also, can you please tell what you liked about Nawazuddin Siddiqui as the Police Officer?
He is fast-becoming one of my most favourite actors. I am just curious about what you really thought of him.
I can hardly remember the details of Kahaani now. It seems like a million years has passed since yours truly watched it.
I felt Nawazuddin Siddiqui brought a sense of ‘urgency’ to his character/role that seemed so natural, more so in the context of how policemen act in the Indian milieu.
Even a decent flick won’t stay in our minds for too long, unfortunately.
Kollywood is remaking ‘Kahaani’ with Nayanthara 🙁
cowoops choice….Diana Mariam Kurian does not need the prosthetic thing to look pregnant. 😉
Diana Mariam Kurian does not need the prosthetic thing to look pregnant.
Ouch! then what would happen in the climax? will she deliver a hybrid of Prabhu Deva brothers and [deleted] out of her womb on the middle of the road and freak the villain out? 😛 😛
What will this graceless, talentless, hopeless cow do in the climax?
That thought is keeping me awake at 2:09AM, with a bottle of Espresso Stout for company. 😉