The ‘Bengalification’ of Hindi cinema, particularly in the thriller genre, is interesting upto a point. But there comes a time when you have to ask if this focus on ethnicity and localisation of stories set in the state of West Bengal is sometimes mistaken for good plotting.
Kahaani 2, like Sujoy Ghosh’s first detective story with Vidya Balan in the lead, turns quirky Bengali characters and their cute takes on Hindi grammar and pronunciation, into staple comic interludes. While it does succeed for a while in masking the obvious problems of content and structure ailing this movie, it turns repetitive and decidedly unfunny later on.
At first the elderly and forgetful man upstairs, the mentally unbalanced beggar on the street, the overweight police officer chasing a promotion, the Nepali watchman who smiles when you call him daju, are quite charming. These are quintessential characters that add great atmosphere to a film.
But some 40 minutes into the film, you discover that what looks like an engaging detective story in the making is actually a morality tale, an explicit exposition about what so frequently happens to little girls within our exalted and tightly knit family systems. Certainly, social criticism is important, but when it is introduced so early on in a movie, the effect is to short circuit a thriller. In effect, the makers have given their audience carte blanche to work out the unfolding of the narrative for themselves.
From here on the writer and director can no longer control Kahaani 2. The tasks they are left with is to hammer the nails in, screw the bolts and tighten the nuts. The architecture, nay the blue print of the movie, has been given away.
The nicest part of the movie is the beginning, when you see Durga Rani Singh (Vidya Balan) at home, lovingly taking care of her daughter, Minnie (Naisha Khanna). You instantly recall the advanced state of pregnancy of the central character in the first Kahaani film, and settle down to a nice sequel, post motherhood, with that heroic protagonist.
But it is not to be. This is a new character, in a brand new plot, interacting this time round with a poker faced Police Officer with good looks (Arjun Rampal), but not one nuance in persona, in small town Bengal, far from the madding crowd of Kolkata.
Had it not been for the intensity with which Vidya Balan imbues every character she plays, this film would not have been worth the look in. But since she presents us with a mother courage and her child duet, played with such moral clarity and conviction, the film wins a pardon.