(Published in The Sunday Guardian, dated 11 March 2012, retrieved from http://www.sunday-guardian.com/masala-art/more-twist-than-tale)
Cast: Vidya Balan, Indraneil Sengupta, Parambrata Chattopadhyay, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Saswata Chatterjee
Director : Sujoy Ghosh
Rating : 1 star
There are some films that make you want to claw through your eyes and squish your brain so you can simply stop processing them. And then there are films like Kahaani that elevate those by comparison.
Vidya Bagchi (Vidya Balan) arrives in Kolkata from London, and heads straight for the police station, where she gives the kindly inspector a lesson in pronunciation before filing a missing person report – Arnab Bagchi (Indraneil Sengupta), her husband, left for India on a two-week assignment and disappeared. People claim he never left Heathrow, he never landed in Kolkata, and he never stayed at the Mona Lisa guest house, but his delusional wife knows better, and the Kolkata Police decide to go with her instinct. As does the Intelligence Bureau. Between them, they ferry her everywhere she wants to go, request her to hack into protected computers, and allow her to get away with murder.
Now, despite being married to a Bengali, Vidya needs to be told by a smitten cop (Parambrata Chattopadhyay) that all Bengalis go bydaak naam and bhaalo naam, and that Bengali wives wear red-bordered white saris during Durga Puja. She insists on staying in a lodge where men leer at pregnant women, and forgets for a couple of days where crucial documents that could lead her to her husband are stored. This, after the informer gets murdered. I’m not sure whether it’s more laughable that the filmmakers want us to believe this nutjob reads Milan Kundera, or that they would have us think she’s cleverer than the IB.
The number of twists and plot holes convinces the viewer that this film can’t make up its mind about anything, including whether to go with Bengali or Hindi as its main language. And after a gripping start, it unravels into a far-fetched mess involving Photoshop, poison, foetuses, intelligence and the lack thereof. When it isn’t stereotyping Anglo-Indians and Bengalis, it’s dragging out infantile gags.
Most of this has to do with Vidya teaching Bengalis English and Hindi – yahaan not yohaan, briefcase not suitcase. Meh. We’re expected to be amused by a signboard reading ‘Ekbalpur Nursi Ghome’. But I was rather more tickled when the filmmakers thanked ‘Mamata Banerjee, Honorary Chief Minister, Paschim Banga’. So much for being a Grammar Nazi!
Vidya’s inept performance allows us to appreciate the efforts of Parambrata Chattopadhyay, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, and Saswata Chatterjee in making their roles credible. The final twist won’t surprise you unless you’re as obtuse as the characters in this movie.
The Verdict: The only thing novel about this film is that, for once, a Bengali is stereotyping his city and people.