Suspense or mystery is one genre that the Hindi film industry does not explore too often. ‘Kahaani’ came at a point when director Sujoy Ghosh was going to throw a low in his career. His last two films ‘Aladin’ and ‘Home Delivery’ had bombed at the box office. Not only did ‘Kahaani’ resurrect Sujoy’s career, it also turned out to be one of the best thrillers made in Bollywood. Almost five years later, the director and the original film’s leading lady Vidya Balan are back with ‘Kahaani 2: Durga Rani Singh’, which is a sequel-in-spirit (and not a film that takes the narrative of the first part forward). The trailer gave us the chills and we hoped the film manages to create at least a part of the magic that ‘Kahaani’ created four years back.
Vidya Sinha (Vidya Balan) is a single mother residing in Chandan Nagar, a quaint town in West Bengal, with her fifteen-year-old daughter Mini. Vidya tries to save as much as she can from her modest earnings so that she can get Mini, who is paralyzed from under the waist, operated in America. One day, after coming back from work Vidya finds her missing. The wheelchair is there in the house but Mini is nowhere to be seen. Soon enough, she gets a call from a stranger which reaffirms her fear of Mini being kidnapped. Vidya sprints towards a place where the kidnapper has called her and in the process, meet with an accident which lands her in a coma. Sub-inspector Inderjeet Singh, who has recently been transferred to Chandan Nagar, visits her in the hospital and is shocked to see her as Vidya seems to resemble Durga Rani Singh, a woman he used to know a long time back.
‘Kahaani 2’ deals with the serious issue of child sexual abuse and Sujoy weaves a story around this subject with utmost sensitivity. Not too many filmakers have had the gumption to make a film based on this subject and kudos to Sujoy for taking up this issue in the second installment of a highly successful film. The story moves across three towns/cities – Kalimpong, Chanda Nagar and Kolkata. Just like ‘Kahaani’, Sujoy seems to be very careful in his attempt to get the feel and ambience of the location or milieu right. You feel like you are a part of the characters’ lives and the place they live in. The first half of the film runs at a brisk pace, introducing you to characters and unfolding events quickly. By the time the interval point comes, you ponder on several possibilities that the film could lead you towards.
The second half of the film is the point where the film takes a dip. The narrative becomes slow and throws up a few scenes which seem implausible. The altercation between Durga and the antagonists is barely exciting. The fact that Durga calls the police station, introduces herself, tells a cop that she would like to talk to Sub-inspector Inderjeet Singh, is a giveaway to a major twist that unravels towards the end. You wonder why she introduced herself with her real name. If the audience is smart enough to see through this loophole, one can see it coming from a mile’s distance.
Vidya Balan is first-rate as Vidya Sinha/Durga Rani Singh. Though ‘Kahaani’ provided her with a better character graph, this film, nonetheless, offers a role worthy of her talent. Arjun Rampal delivers a wonderfully restraint performance as Sub-Inspector Indrajeet Singh. One wonders why filmmakers don’t cast him in such understated roles. Casting against type can sometimes do wonders. The idea of getting Jugal Hansraj to play a negative role turns out to be a masterstroke. Jugal does a very good job as an actor and one would definitely like to see him on the big screen more often. Kharaj Mukherjee, who had played a similar role in ‘Kahaani’, delivers a delightful performance. Tota Roy Choudhury, who was seen in Sujoy’s short film ‘Ahalya’, plays a nice, brief role as Durga’s caring boyfriend. Amba Sanyal is good as Mrs. Dewan. Naisha Khanna (younger Mini) and Tunisha Sharma (older Mini) play their parts well. Manini Chadha makes a confident debut as Indrajeet Singh’s wife.
Sujoy Ghosh gives the film an eerie feel for most of its part and skillfully unravels the mystery slowly as the narrative moves forward. As a writer, along with co-writer Suresh Nair, should have had more control on the script which goes haywire in several points in the second half. The antagonist which came across as very powerful in the beginning, fails to bring to the fore much menace because of the sub-standard writing. The climax, though not as powerful as that of the first part, has its moments. Mukesh Chhabra pulls off one of the best ensemble of actors one has seen in any film this year.
‘Kahaani 2’ is not a patch on ‘Kahaani’ but as a standalone film, it packs in enough thrills and makes for an engaging viewing. This is far from being the disappointment that the Sujoy Ghosh produced ‘TE3N’, released earlier this year, was. This is one of the better films to be made in a genre that the industry does not really tap into.