Shah Rukh Khan once said about his co-star Madhuri Dixit: "Madhuri is the most solid man I've met in the industry. Yeah, you heard right. She's truly like a man. She's the most solid thinker, solid emotionally, solid believer (...) She's the complete Indian film heroine."
The above quote today inevitably brings to the mind current "hero-ine" Vidya Balan. In a male centered film industry, her sound script sense and her talent currently make her one of Bollywood's most regarded professionals, up there with the sharpness of the market-savviest male stars or the talent of the best actors in the industry. She has turned the audience's focus to women characters with a solid hand, making men and women alike love her for it. After Ishqiya, No One Killed Jessica and The Dirty Picture, it is today Kahaani's turn to blow the spectator away with Balan's ability to subtly perform within a team, focusing on her characters as individuals more than as female roles, while intelligently allowing her co-stars to shine along with her too.
Mrs. Bagchi's kahaani is however not solely about herself. This queen is surrounded by a tight circle of highly accomplished actors and interesting characters. Let us take a closer look at the performers that make this Bengali story alive:
First and foremost, we should mention marvelously cast Parambrata Chattopadhyay, who embodies police inspector Rana and scours the town along with Mrs. Bagchi, becoming her faithful aid and unrequited admirer. He is a fabulous match to Balan's talent and his character has heroic undertones that are masterfully performed.
No less merit goes to Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who fantastically plays the consummate Intelligence Bureau officer, scorching the screen with his natural presence and giving his character oodles of attitude, layering it all to perfection. Saswata Chatterjee gives a chilling impersonation of an insurance agent who also earns his life by murdering on contract. Indraneil Sengupta, Dhritiman Chatterjee and the two child artistes also richly add to the performance quotient.
Last but not least, this is the only recent film in my opinion that convincingly incorporates a city as if it were a full-fledged character. Kahaani would not be what it is without Kolkata and the intriguing way it is filmed, at times colourful and vivacious, at others in all its dingy glory. The city silently permeates the screen with its presence and makes the audience fear and hope, alike an excellent actor giving life to a vibrant but mysterious character. Kolkata comes alive and we say cheers and kudos to Satyajit Pande, in cinematography for accomplishing such an impressive feat.
Yes, we all wonder why an inspector takes it to heart to help Mrs. Bagchi, how clues appear so suddenly or how the surprising climax came to be, but unlike a vast amount of films, the script takes center stage in this one! Sujoy Ghosh, Advaita Kala, Nikhil Vyas and Suresh Nair have done a superlative job in terms of writing, successfully navigating between a moving situation and a compelling thriller and giving audiences a film that is proudly Indian (observe Kahaani's deep symbolism in its continuous referrals to Durga Puja throughout its narrative) but universally capable of being well received. Sujoy Ghosh's direction is of sterling quality and suitably enhanced by Namrata Rao's nimble editing. The movie succeeds in keeping us at the edge of our seats.
Consequently, Kahaani is the type of film that we would wish to share with cinema enthusiasts in India and beyond. It has the ingredients to engage audiences from any culture. Sujoy Ghosh's film can cross borders and does away with Bollywood clichés, pushing storytelling forward. A definite thumbs up. Do not miss it at a cinema near you!
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KAHAANIDirector: Sujoy Ghosh
Producers: Kushal Gada and Sujoy Ghosh
Cast: Vidya Balan, Parambrata Chattopadhyay, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Indraneil Sengupta, Dhritiman Chatterjee, Darshan Jariwala, Saswata Chatterjee
Screenplay: Sujoy Ghosh, Advaita Kala, Nikhil Vyas and Suresh Nair
Editing: Namrata Rao
Cinematograhy: Satyajit Pande