Sujoy Ghosh and Advaita Kala bring to life a brilliant thriller which while nodding to Satyajit Rays Felu Da and the Hitchcock School of thrillers, is fascinatingly minimalistic in emotions and strong in impact.
Vidya Bagchi, played by Balan, is a pregnant woman who flies down from London to Kolkata looking for her missing husband. Instead she finds herself in the midst of a dangerous game between a compromised intelligence system of the govt. and terrorists behind a metro terror act two years ago.
As a good thriller should, Kahaani throws all the usual tricks in the hat out of the window, unraveling every predictable knot in the story without much ado while saving the unexpected for later. The director, whose last two films never belied are better forgotten, manages to finely balance realism, art and entertainment- keeping the suspense high while avoiding unnecessary melodrama and anxiety.
The urgency and suffocation of living in a crowded maddening metropolis like Kolkata runs parallel to the desperation of Vidyas character searching for her husband. Kolkata, in fact, is the other main lead in this hero-less bollywood flick. From montages of blistering streets, muddy roads, broken houses, the landscape suddenly bursts into the vibrant colors of Durga Puja as the story culminates into its most unexpected climax, leaving one amazed and satisfied. Ghosh deftly ties every single loose end into a neat and convincing end that transcends the commercial and the noir.
Kahaani would not be half as good were it not for the effortless performance by Vidya Balan, the lady of the hour in bollywood. She brings a sense of measured desperation and guarded urgency to her character's progression never once letting it go over the top. Heavily pregnant and distressed, Vidya steals the show from every other actor on screen effortlessly.
Bringing one to the other cast, mostly known faces from the Bengali industry, and in particular Parambrata Chattopadhyay playing Vidyas gentle natured support. The actors surrender to the fact that this is a Vidya show, and relish making her look good. Nawazuddin Sidiqqui as the cop Khan is another brilliant actor sadly overlooked by an industry obsessed with star mania. His turn in this, following his Paan Singh act closely, makes him worth watching out for.
Kahaani brings a new energy to the timeworn genre of thrillers and is definitely a milestone, where a Hindi film with no hero works without the heroine having to shed clothes. Do not miss this one for anything.