#FCOutreach #ForeignLanguageFilms #Day2Article1
“Who are you?”
“What difference does it make?”
What makes a Bollywood film? Budget-defying dance numbers? Chiseled, heroic male leads? Flamboyant male sidekicks trapped in an endless cycle of self-deprecating humour? Kahaani (2012) opts to go the other way. A different kind of Bollywood film, it has a stripped-down tone that allows it to focus on the story. And Kahaani, whose title itself means “story” in Hindi, certainly knows how to do story.
Kahaani is worth watching just for its premise. On the surface, it’s a detective-mystery film; the protagonist, Vidya Bagchi, flies to Kolkata to investigate the disappearance of her husband Arnab Bagchi, a software engineer working an assignment at the National Data Centre (NDC). When the police are uncooperative and nobody at the NDC seems to have heard of an Arnab Bagchi, she slips into the persona of a vigilante detective with ease, meeting with government officials to demand for explanations and carrying out extra-legal operations (such as breaking into the NDC). Soon, she finds that her husband may not be who he claimed to be at all: the pictures she has of her husband match the profile of an ex-NDC employee, “Milan Damji”. As she attempts to uncover the truth about her missing husband, her life is put in danger by the presence of an assassin (played delightfully- and terrifyingly!- by Saswata Chatterjee) hired to kill anyone pursuing Milan Damji’s identity.
This would make for a gripping two hours of cinema of itself, but Kahaani truly shines in its ability to create twists in the plot that completely subvert expectations. It’s reminiscent of the film Inception in its layered storytelling; you think a story is real, until it’s not. Numerous times, through clever scriptwriting and cinematography, you’re lulled into making false hunches, expecting an assumption to be true when you later realise that same scene could have implied something else entirely.
The first hints occur at the very beginning of the film that Vidya Bagchi’s story of her missing husband may not be all it seems. We open to a shot of lab mice in jars. A bottle falls, releasing a gas that induces uncontrolled spasms, then death. In a crowded train on the Kolkata Metro Railway, a mother nursing a screaming baby drops a milk bottle just as the doors close. The next shot is of bodies piled onto each other, as if in sleep. Journalists and the families of the dead clamour for answers about what happened, but the police and premier intelligence services keep mum. What’s the story behind this incident? What’s the story? The audience is keen to know. Almost as if completely dismissing this, the movie then flashes forward, launching into a completely different story– that of Mrs Bagchi.
I’m not giving away the twist at the end of the film. It’s breathtaking, and worth the wait to experience firsthand. The twist illuminates the film’s views on identity, and the deceptive and rousing quality of a story. A moment of clarity for the audience occurs near the very end, as Vidya’s facade cracks and she admits that in the telling her story, she almost became convinced of the truth of it.
Everyone who’s seen a film knows that power– the power of a story. Don’t miss this one.
Written by Harshini Rayasam [FC Member], edited by FC BOD’16