This movie has several excellent things going for it that make it an absolute gem of a film. The cinematography and editing is first class and the Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) locations are breathtakingly evocative of the vibrant life in this commercial and cultural capital city of the Indian state of West Bengal. This may not be that exciting to a Hindi audience but will definitely be very striking to a western audience.
If the thought of a Bollywood film turns you off, don’t let that deter you from seeing this wonderful film. You will be very pleasantly surprised. It is not your traditional song and dance Hindi film as there are no songs, dancing or melodramatic storyline. There are humorous moments but it’s also a suspenseful mystery thriller and drama that has clearly been influenced by the realistic visceral filming style and immediate storyline of Slumdog Millionaire (2008).
The story deals with a terrorist attack on a subway train and the search for the man behind the attack in the back alleys and the seedier side of Kolkata’s colorful neighborhoods. A pregnant wife arrives from London looking for her missing husband and enlists the help of the local police. Throughout the film the story is inter-cut with lively images of actual Calcutta street life through different stages of daily life during a festival period.
The suspenseful story of a vulnerable, pregnant but extremely tenacious and determined woman searching for the missing father of her child is an instantly gripping mystery that will keep you hooked into this completely realistic movie from start to finish. Making this film even more convincing is the absolutely believable performance by the beautiful and likable actress Vidya Balan, recently seen in The Dirty Picture (2011), who plays Vidya Bagchi, the pregnant woman searching for her husband. She easily holds our attention and our sympathies throughout her entire ordeal. In fact you cannot take your eyes off her.
Kahaani means ‘Story’ in Hindi and refers to the fictional tales that the characters are telling each other about themselves to hide the truth. The ending therefore becomes a big twist as their true stories are revealed and we realize that each character is not what they seem.
This is a movie I would definitely watch again and is on par with the best of any recent film from Hollywood and well worth your time and money. Critics from the US and Canada don’t normally review Hindi films but this one is definitely worth a serious look.