Movie Review – Kahani 2

Kahani 2: Durga Rani Singh

One heck of a mouthful, that is and one wonders why, considering Kahani 1 was not sub-titled: Vidya Bagchi. After all, it was director Sujoy Ghosh’s idea to call it the “Kahani franchise;” nobody else pegged it thus!

Of late, films seem to be opening to the background music of long-ago movies. Kahani 2 is no exception and has the haunting strains of “yeh raatein, nayee poorani” as the prelude. The movie is based on the ugly truth of child sexual abuse; a most laudable notion and about time filmmakers paid attention to this stark reality, which ‘Highway’ previously merely hinted at. Having said that, a question boggles my mind – what’s a topic like this got to do with the ‘Kahani’ series, given that the first one was an out-and-out thriller? Yes, yes, I am aware Sujoy Ghosh has been declaiming to all and sundry that the kahani’s are completely different; I’m just wondering why a series at all then.

So, Vidya Sinha urf Durga Rani Singh (Vidya Balan) works as a school secretary where she comes across a little girl, Mini (Naisha Khanna as the child and Tunisha Sharma as the teenager) who’s always being punished by the teacher. By some fantastic leaps of imagination, Durga comes to the conclusion that the child is being sexually abused – and we, the audience, are informed by not so subtle hints that Durga too has undergone a similar experience. Durga tries to accost Mini’s grandmother (Amba Sanyal) and uncle Mohit Dewan (Jugal Hansraj) but the two try to get her framed instead. Meanwhile, Mini now takes a flying leap off the balcony – please bear in mind the kid is only six years old!! Our avenging angel Durga rushes to the hospital and abducts Mini and then relocates to Chandan Nagar as Vidya Sinha with her paralysed daughter Mini.

Eight years later, Mini is kidnapped. Vidya is rushing to the location given by the kidnapper when she meets with an accident and winds up in a coma. Now enter dashing cop Inderjeet Singh (Arjun Rampal) who is assigned this case. He seems to recognize Vidya despite her awfully strawberry-coloured eye. The kahani then spirals into a loop of twists and turns, interspersed by irritating asides from Inderjeet’s wife Rashmi (Manini Chadha.)

While Kahani 1 was written by Sujoy Ghosh and Advaita Kala, this kahani is the result of a collaboration between Ghosh and Suresh Nair and a sorry specimen it is too. Child abuse is sordid and no two victims grow up to exhibit similar behavioural traits, therefore, Durga being emotionally distant, obsessed with or over-protective about Mini, is understandable. What is unforgivable is the exaggeration of certain angles. How many six year olds are gonna hurl themselves off a balcony?! Moreover, suddenly springing on us that Durga and Inderjeet were once married is just muddying the waters. It also gets a tad surreal in a ‘Silence of the Lambs’ manner, as the disturbed but meek Durga bites off a chunk of the female cop’s ear.

Speaking of whom, in another bizarre kahani twist (pardon the bad pun!) this cop is not just crooked or corrupt, oh no, she’s a kind of mercenary who knocks off people – with a humble razor – for the right price. Makes you wonder what the writers were smoking or whether they read Lee Child, Nelson DeMille and Jack Higgins and ran them all together to create Razor Rani!

Many of the characters have not been well fleshed out either. The character of Pranab Halder (played by Kharaj Mukherjee) as Inderjeet’s boss, is a caricature of a Bengali inspector. Arun (Tota Roy Chowdhury) Durga’s lover, is written off from the script in as abrupt a manner as he entered it.  Inderjeet’s wife Rashmi is another case in point. How many senior cop’s wives harass their husbands, complain unfailingly about the place of posting and tell them – within one week of the move! – to ask for a transfer back to Calcutta! Frankly, her constant complaints were making me shift restlessly in my seat, itching to give her a spanking. Although Arjun Rampal is effective as both tough cop and soft husband, landing him with a wife and a kid and then bunging in the angle of another kid on the way, seems superfluous.

Very surprisingly, the dialogues have been penned by Ritesh Shah, the same dude who pulled it off in ‘Pink’ recently but disappoints in Kahani 2. “Aur kya kya chupaya mujhse?” asks Rashmi coyly of Inderjeet and the movie has plenty of such trite, banal lines which you can see coming a mile away. Also, unlike Kahani 1, this one doesn’t have much of the “Bidya” or other Bengali-isms going on, strangely.

Vidya Balan is Vidya Balan. She seems a bit distrait in this movie. Mostly, she is without make-up and in shapeless clothes, with her hair looking as though a tornado ran through it. Post the accident though, there is some seriously bad – I’m talking splashes of ketchup – make-up in an attempt to show us she has hurt her face. Tunisha Sharma is a very pretty girl and should go places. The grandma is a termagant and Amba Sanyal performed competently. Jugal Hansraj as sinister chachu is a far cry from the chocolate cherub of ‘Masoom.’ I guess one sees a new villain in Bollywood; still needs to work on dialogue delivery though. Manini Chadha is simply awful. She delivers all her dialogues in a flat monotone and is not much in the looks department either.

As the director, Ghosh seems to have been basking on the laurels of Kahani 1 and banking on the audience’s support for this one too. One cannot fathom why he messed with a good crew; he has also changed the cinematographer and Kahani 2 is handled by Tapan Basu, who has not quite managed to achieve the effect of bringing Calcutta or Kalimpong home to the audience the way Satyajit Pande did. Music in this one is by Clinton Cerejo; nothing that I can recall having once left the theatre, while Vishal-Shekhar had managed to inject a note of suspense in the earlier offering. The editor remains the same – Namrata Rao. Kahani 2 could have been shortened, especially post interval. As it is, the over-dramatised end is kind of rushed by the audience in a series of clips.

*Written exclusively for the Screen Writers Association of India

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