As a movie buff, I love films from all over the world. Subtitles do not bother me. Any well-told story that keeps my attention and offers fresh ideas or storytelling is welcome. I’ve seen movies originating from France, Spain, Canada, England, Norway, Japan, China, Thailand and Korea. However, until recently I’ve never seen a Bollywood movie.
Bollywood refers to the Hindi language film industry, based in Mumbai, India. People often mistakenly refer to every Indian film as a Bollywood movie, although technically the term refers only to films produced in Mumbai, the “Hollywood” of the Far East. Bollywood is only a part of the enormous Indian film business, which includes multiple production facilities producing films in multiple languages. Popular subjects include Indian historicals, crime thrillers and large-scale musicals with spectacular dance numbers. There is incredible energy in Indian films.
In Kahaani (Hindi for “story”) Vidya Bagchi (Vidya Balan) is a very pregnant woman who travels across India to the city of Kolkata to search for her missing husband. It seems he left her some weeks ago for a short IT job in the city and never returned. Shuffling pregantly across town, she reports him missing to the local police and is befriended by a kind-hearted cop, Satyoki "Rana" Sinha (Parambrata Chatterjee). Rana feels sorry for her plight and agrees to help her track down her husband. The problem is, no one has ever heard of him. The office where he was supposed to work has no record of him. He never checked in to his reported hotel. Vidya and Rana travel to her husband’s nearby hometown, only to find his neighbors and even his aunt and uncle claim to have never heard of him.
Vidya, an IT expert herself, uses the police computers to try and get a line on her husband. As the search gets more and more complex, outside forces make it clear that Vidya’s husband—and Vidya herself—would be better off if he remained missing. Through the search, Rana falls desperately in love with Vidya. The actors portray it so organically—a touch here, a glance there. It is never even mentioned by the characters, but it is sweet how Rana’s pity turns to admiration to a crush to head over heels. As they follow clues and get in way over their heads, the story falls together like a massive jigsaw puzzle. At the end is one of the most mind-blowing twists I’ve seen in a movie in a long time. It was a shocking surprise out of nowhere, yet made perfect sense and was a satisfying resolution to the story.
The production values of Kahaani are amazing—the city of Kolkata is almost a main character. It didn’t hurt that the movie takes place during the Indian festival of Durga Puja, so the streets are filled with performers, dancing and color. It’s sort of like an Indian Mardi Gras. I absolutely loved Kahaani, from the story to the acting to the lush cinematography to the astonishing ending. It may have been my first Bollywood movie, but it won’t be my last. Try it, you’ll love it.
Kahaani is available on Netflix streaming.
Rating: ***** out of 5 stars