May 19, 2014

Review: Kahaani (2012)

I've seen a fair amount of Indian movies and to be honest there are very few that I've really liked. I'm generalizing though and that's a bit unfair. You can't reduce a country's cinema based on the limited amount of films you've seen. I'm sure that if a foreigner were to judge American cinema, they would just have the international blockbusters to go by which isn't a very fair assessment either because there are loads of good Hollywood productions that don't just rely on fancy effects or aren't for a global audience.

Despite my limited familiarity with Hindi cinema, Kahaani is a really nice change from the usual fare. Although it's 2 hours, it isn't a bloated, singing and dancing, overly melodramatic movie either. Sorry, I'm generalizing again here but Bollywood movies seem to be full of movies that follow this structure. Probably the best change here is that the main character is female and is a pretty strong character in her own right. There's no dancing or singing and the focus is on the story.


Genre: drama, mystery, thriller
Directed by: Sujoy Ghosh
Produced by: Kushal Gada, Sujoy Ghosh, Mohammed Attarwala, etc.
Written by: Sujoy Ghosh
Music by: Vishal Dadlani, Shekhar Ravjiani
Running time: 122 minutes
Production company: Boundscript, Pen Movies, Viacom18 Motion Pictures
Distributed by: Viacom18 Motion Pictures, Broadway, Copiapoa Film
Country: India
Language: Hindi
Budget: $1,300,000
Box office: $17,000,000 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Vidya Balan, Parambrata Chatterjee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Indraneil Sengupta, Dhritiman Chatterjee, Saswata Chatterjee, Darshan Jariwala, Abir Chatterjee, Shantilal Mukherjee, Kharaj Mukherjee, Colleen Blanche, Nitya Ganguli, Ritabrata Mukherjee, Pamela Bhuttoria



The story is about a software engineer named Vidya Bagchi who is searching for her missing husband. She's arrived in Kolkata from London after having lost contact with him and she goes straight to the police office. Satyoki Sinha decides to personally step in and together they make a team to find out what's happened. Mixed in with this is a terrorist attack that had occurred two years previously and the annual celebration of the Hindu goddess Durga going on while Vidya and Satyoki race against the clock.


Kahaani is shot on a really small budget, only $1.4 million US! I would say the only negative effect of this is the cheap looking CGI early on in the film but that's really about it. Also as a result of the small budget, the film is shot guerrilla style with passerbys not necessarily knowing that a film is being shot. This does good things for this thriller by adding a dose of intimacy when there are shots of Kolkata.  The city is really charming and the filming style shows that off.

So the story of Kahaani is pretty good but where it all unravels is around the last 15 minutes. All of a sudden things just go completely bonkers and everything that worked so surprisingly well before is thrown out the window. Things where falling so nicely into place until that moment but all the same, that doesn't mean Kahaani is a horrible movie or anything. It was just a major let down.

Vidya Balan does quite well as Vidya Bagchi. Some themes of Kahaani would be motherhood and feminism which the character Vidya Bagchi properly balances without going overboard or being preachy. She's just strong on her own and isn't forced to be with some love interest either. Kahaani toes the line on being overly melodramatic once or twice but succeeds for the most part in avoiding any drama cheese.

The only other negative thing I can say about Kahaani is the dumb implementation of computer hacking. OK fine, so I can believe that Vidya Bagchi is a software engineer that can also hack. But the way it's represented on screen is pretty embarrassing. The "hacking" scenes are pure garbage but honestly, there are very few films even in Hollywood that properly show hacking in movies. Sometimes they even struggle showing people using computers normally!

Kahaani isn't just a decent Bollywood movie (does it still count as Bollywood if it wasn't made in Bombay?). It's a decent thriller that unfortunately is totally let down by its climax. For a $1.4 million movie, it looks good although there were a couple times that the score overwhelmed the action scenes or spoiled a tense moment that would have been better with silence. One thing's for sure though, Sujoy Ghosh has gotten over his box office curse with what Kahaani earned at the box office.



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