As seven months pregnant Vidya Bagchi steps out of Kolkata International Airport terminal, she is assaulted by taxi drivers and the oppressive heat. She has traveled from London to find her husband Arnad, who came to the city on an assignment and vanished. At the police station, she meets rookie police officer, Sayoki Sinha (Rana), who becomes both protector and accomplice as she navigates Kolkata’s streets in a desperate search for Arnad.
Right from the start, Vidya runs into roadblocks: no record of Arnad at the guesthouse, the HR Manager at the National Data Centre has never heard of him, no one knows him in the town he supposedly grew up in, and he is not in the morgue. Vidya’s first break comes when NDC HR manager, Agnes D’mello, is shown Arnad’s picture. Arnad, it seems, looks like ex-employee Milan Dimji, who disappeared two years ago after a terrorist attack on the city’s metro. Enter doofy-looking Bob Biswas, life insurance salesman by day, creepy cold-blooded assassin by night. Exit Agnes!
Enter Inspector Khan, second in command at the national Intelligence Bureau. He has been looking for Dimji for two years and now he wants to talk to Vidya. Khan loves to intimate people, but Vidya proves more than a match for him. Will Vidya find Arnad, or does he even exist? With just the right amount of twists and turns, Kahaani is a taut, well-paced thriller.
Kahaani is a great movie for several reasons, the main being Vidya Balan, in the role of Vidya. She made me feel the heat, the pregnancy, her frustration, her anger, her resolve, and her vulnerability. Parambrata Chattopadhyay, as Rana, was a perfect match for her intensity. His quiet strength and resourcefulness, his respect and consideration, and his ‘crush’ on Vidya made their relationship the human heart of the film. Handsome Nawazuddin Siddique, as the arrogant Khan, is charismatic as a government agent who believes the end justifies the means. Other cast members were excellent as well. I was especially fond of Saswata Chatterjee, as Bob Biswas, and Ritobroto Mukherjee, as Bishnu, the sweet, innocent errand boy at the guesthouse.
I became intimately acquainted with Kolkata: the city waking up, the teeming streets of midday, the lights of the evening, the rain, the street food, trolleys, subways, back alleys and narrow lanes. The city teems with worshippers as our story reaches its’ climax during the Hindu festival of Durga Puga, worship of the Goddess Durga, the personification of a universal mother. Iconic Hindi actor Amitabh Bachchan, sings a famous Bengali patriotic song, Eklo Cholo Re, as Vidya watches worshippers from the guestroom window.
Director Sujoy Ghosh, who is also responsible for the screenplay, was awarded Best Director at the 2013 Filmfare Awards, while Vidya Balan was awarded Best Actress for her role as Vidya.