'Kahaani' is a film where the master storytelling of Sujoy Ghosh comes into picture because one can see that within a decade of making a terrific debut with 'Jhankaar Beats', the filmmaker has grown manifold. He totally deconstructs his earlier technique and adapts himself to an altogether new world, something that has been hitherto explored by hardly any filmmaker out there. It is an altogether fresh sensibility at play (thank goodness for that) and that shows in not just the technique but also the story that he has chosen to tell here.
The story, if one may want to totally go by the promos, is about a pregnant woman (Vidya Balan) searching for her missing husband in the city of Kolkata. However to trust this as the only context in the offering is proven wrong in the very first scene of the film where a biochemical experiment is in progress. This followed by a terrorist attack actually prompts you to check whether it is indeed 'Kahaani' you had come to watch. Those doubts are unfounded though once the opening credits start rolling and a very pregnant Vidya Balan enters the scene. You know there and then that this one is going to be a much 'layered' affair.
To think of it, the basic plot involving a pregnant woman and her hunt may have come across as a rather grim affair. However 'Kahaani' is far from being grim. It in fact is a two hour long ride that just doesn't give you respite for a solitary minute and right from the prologue scene to a shocking finale, it keeps you on the edge of the seat.
In this journey she is supported by a rookie cop (Parambrata Chattopadhyay) who is her friend and guide in an alien city of Kolkata. (Spoilers ahead) This means that even as she battles the intelligence department, an organisation where her husband worked, some insiders there, an assassin and half the world which refuses to believe that her husband really exists, she doesn't give up hope.
In fact to think of it, the kind of plot that the film boasts of, the elements and people involved and the usage of technology forming a good part of the narrative, Sujoy Ghosh could have easily found himself in a zone a la Sanjay Gupta or an Abbas-Mustan. However he comes up with a style of his own which means he merges reality with an engaging narrative in such a manner that you feel like standing next to the character and feeling her emotions instead of just being passively entertained as a viewer.
In this endeavour of his, Sujoy gets terrific support from his technical team. Right from cinematography to art direction to sound design to background score to the music (Vishal-Shekhar) to the editing, 'Kahaani' scores, and how. Still, none of that would have been possible if Sujoy would have tried to recreate Kolkata on a set instead. The very fact that he has shot in real locations and also captured quite a few scenes real time means that the authenticity of the city is never compromised.
The person who makes it possible for Sujoy's vision to be executed is undoubtedly Vidya Balan. The woman, who doesn't really have to prove anything to anyone now, shows once again how she has it in her to hold an entire story based on her her sheer presence. She is terrific yet again and the way she interacts with one and all, whether it is a 6 year old kid or a 60 year old man, to get one clue after another is admirable.
Not to be left behind is the entire supporting cast, most of whom are Bengalis. Parambrata has an almost similar screen time as Vidya and gives a very good account of himself. He is a find and deserves to be seen more often. Nawazuddin Siddiqui as the Intelligence officer plays his part convincingly and is very believable. So is the man who plays an assassin with smile on his face. Other then them there are close to half a dozen actors playing important characters, including Indraneil Sengupta and none of them ever tries to overshadow the scene by going over the top even once.
Let the fact be told, 'Kahaani' is not a film that can be seen just once. It is a story, pun intended, which deserves a second viewing. No, not just due to the fact that it is a gripping and engaging affair but also because once the finale hits you hard and the mystery unfolds, you are instantly prompted to revisit the story. Time and again one hears directors come up with descriptions like 'My film has layer after layer being explored' or 'You would be on the edge of the seat right through the narrative'. Well Sujoy Ghosh, the film's director, doesn't say any of this, he just does it. And that's the strength of his 'Kahaani'.