WTF ASIA 68: Kahaani (2012)

A pregnant woman searches for her missing husband, only to find herself embroiled in a terrorism investigation and a web of lies.

Available in AustraliaCanadathe United Kingdomthe United States, and maybe some other countries. Approximately 122 minutes.

 

 

The movie starts out with a gas attack on a Kolkata Metro Rail train car. Everyone in the car dies.

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Suddenly, the movie jumps two years later and a woman named Vidya Bagchi arrives in Kolkata. What the gas attack has to do with her story will not become apparent until much later in the movie. In any case, she goes to a local police station and asks to file a missing person’s report. She tells them that her husband, Arnab, had come to his hometown of Kolkata from London a month earlier to work at the National Data Center as a computer engineer. She says that she lost contact with him two weeks into the assignment. When she called the National Data Center, they said that Arnab was never there.

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An officer nicknamed Rana is struggling with a computer and, as Vidya is finishing up her statement with Inspector Chatterjee, she casually fixes the problem. She is about to finish signing her report, when she starts to fall to the floor. Filled with sympathy (or maybe just pity) for this very pregnant woman, Inspector Chatterjee refuses to allow Vidya to call a taxi, instead assigning Rana to escort her around town.

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Rana takes her to the hotel where her husband had supposedly stayed. The person running the place insists that there was no one with her husband’s name or face who stayed there. Vidya decides to stay there during her search, even though it is a bit of a dump and she does not get along with the manager. She does get along with “running water” boy Bishnu.

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Rana takes Vidya to the National Data Center, where she is again told by HR manager Agnes that there was never any assignment for anyone named Arnab Bagchi. Vidya takes out of photo of him and Agnes still says no. Rana then takes her to the morgue…or what looks like a morgue. He shows her a dead body, but it is not Arnab. She then goes with him to a place where he supposedly had relatives, but the people living there had never heard of him. Vidya and Rana visit the school where Arnab supposedly attended as a child. There are no records of him. Rana tells her that there was no record of Arnab leaving London or arriving in Kolkata when she said that he did.

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Dead end follows dead end until Agnes calls Vidya and asks to meet her. Agnes tells her that, after looking at the photograph some more, she realized that Arnab looked a lot like an ex-employee named Milan Damji, “a funny one” who just showed up to work at the NDC one day and then left just as suddenly two years ago. A lot of people came looking for him when he left, but he had disappeared. Vidya states that Arnab was in London with her two years ago, but Agnes insists that the two men look exactly alike. She had tried to find a photo on Milan’s files, but all she got was a “Restricted” message. Still certain that the two men look alike and just as certain that there is probably a connection. Agnes had made some calls in the hopes of opening the files. In the meantime she tells Vidya that there is a place with paper files that may have a photograph.

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Little does Agnes know, but her searching around for Milan Damji had raised some alarm bells that reopens the case of the gas train attack two years earlier. It is not long before people on both sides of the law come to try to shut her down and shut down Vidya as well.

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This is a solid mystery movie, taking elements of mistaken identity and murder, and making it its own. It is fun, warm, and quite exciting at times. I really like the character of Vidya. She has this mix of genuine gentleness and steely resolve. She is always grateful towards those who help her out, but she never strays from her mission and bristleds against those who underestimate her or refuse to believe her. She may come across as a little snobby with these locals who can never pronounce her name correctly, but she is patient even when she is impatient.

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There are some flaws in the film. There is a character whom I guess is kind of a unique in terms of…well, I cannot really say without spoiling it, but the movie basically shows us why a character like that is not very common in this kind of entertainment. There is one chase scene that would have been exciting except for the actions (or lack thereof) of the character being chased. The main character is supposed to do a little hacking on the side and her hacking is…well…movie hacking. Apparently, the festival in Kolkata that Vidya takes place while Vidya is there is not presented accurately. Really, though, those are only nitpicks. When I first watched this movie, I was somewhat interested at first, but as it went further, I realized that I did not quite know where it was going. And really, the climax really got me. Even though I had seen a similar thing in other movies, it was really effective here. Watching it a second and third time was no less impressive. Seriously, this movie is 112 minutes of greatness.

Unfortunately, it goes on for another 7 minutes before the credits start rolling. I don’t want to say exactly what happens, since that would be spoileriffic, though Wikipedia spoils most of it. I am not sure if I necessarily dislike what happens as much as I dislike how it happens. The climax of the movie was just so awesome that I was on a high of sorts. The movie seemed to be about to wind down and then it just deflated. It is here that we get the true reveal of what was really going on, which is fine. It just grinds the movie to a screeching halt and completely spoonfeeds the audience. That might be necessary for a movie that is intended to reach audiences that do not share a common language, but I personally would have preferred it if the whole thing were cut down significantly, even if it would have ended up being more confusing. Whereas a certain movie that did something similar did it within maybe half the time and with flair, this one seemed to do it rather plainly with an unnecessary voiceover, a cheesy flashback, and some moralizing epilogue.

Now that I have warned you about the ending, you may be wary of watching it. Don’t be. Honestly, since I have told you that the ending is bad, your expectations may be much lower than mine were the first time around, and find that you don’t dislike it as much as I do. That I complain about the ending so much (incidentally, this part of the article was originally a lot longer) is not because the ending is so bad, but that the rest of the movie is so much better than that, especially what came immediately before it. Also, when I showed this to other people, they seemed to like the ending well enough. So maybe it was just me. In any case, I still think that you should watch it.

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Also, there is a movie called Kahaani 2, which I thought was a sequel, but is only a sequel in spirit. It shares the main actress and the general vibe, but it is not a narrative sequel. It was…fine.

 

WTF ASIA 69: Solanin (Japan: approx. 2010, approx. 126 minutes)

Wikipedia sort of…

Available…online.

 

WTF ASIA 70: City of Life and Death (China: approx. 2009, approx. 134 minutes)

Wikipedia

Available in AustraliaCanadaThe United States, and maybe some other countries.