Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

December 2, 2016

Into the dark

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 9:10 pm

December 02, 2016

Cast: Vidya Balan, Arjun Rampal, Jugal Hansraj, Amba Sanyal, Kharaj Mukherjee, Naisha Khanna, Manini Chadha

Director: Sujoy Ghosh

Kahaani 2 opens on a chilling note when a woman, played by Vidya Balan, slips into a coma after being knocked down by a taxi while rushing to save her crippled daughter who has been kidnapped.

Less than ten minutes in, the film has got you by the nuts.

Directed by Sujoy Ghosh, who is making a habit of throwing Balan in front of speeding vehicles, Kahaani 2 is an entirely different film from 2012’s Kahaani, although it shares with that film its leading lady, a West Bengal setting, and a strong sense of atmospherics.

Balan plays Vidya Sinha, a middle-aged single mother living with her daughter Mini in Chandannagar, a small town on the outskirts of Kolkata. When sub inspector Inderjeet Singh (Arjun Rampal) begins investigating her accident, he chances upon her conveniently detailed diary, which provides a window into her life before arriving in Chandannagar. A time when she went by the name Durga Rani Singh.

Ghosh and co-writer Suresh Nair raise the stakes by giving us a story at whose heart resides complete and abject darkness. This is cold, creepy, uncomfortable material, and the makers navigate it both skillfully and with sensitivity. They deserve credit also for casting against type, particularly in the case of Jugal Hansraj and Amba Sanyal who have key supporting roles. Arjun Rampal is in very good form as a world-weary, laconic cop and he summons up a nicely internalized performance.

The first hour of Kahaani 2 moves briskly to reveal a Pandora’s box of secrets and lies. Cutting deftly between the past and the present, the breathless pace of the screenplay never lets up. Post-intermission, however, the warts begin to show. The writing becomes sloppy, and the contrivances pile up. Repeatedly you find yourself asking: “Is that really what this character would do?” The twists too can be spotted from a distance, and an attempt to deliver a Bob Biswas-type unlikely assassin fails completely.

But even as the film hobbles, its leading lady continues to take giant strides. Balan is first rate in a fully fleshed out role, offering a performance completely free of vanity, and full of genuine feeling. She powers Kahaani 2, glossing over its rough edges.

Despite its bumps, the film is seldom boring, but it’s hard not to mourn for what could have been. Kahaani 2 starts out with so much promise but peters out before the end. I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for the film and an additional half star for Vidya Balan’s knockout performance, which makes it three out of five for Kahaani 2. There’s a lot to like here, but consistency isn’t one of its strengths.

(This review first aired on CNN News18)

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