‘Kahaani 2’ review: Of Trailer and Trail Her Chills

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There’s this unsaid thing between me and movie trailers. I usually don’t watch them, and vice-versa. Unless, of course, they’re being screened in cinema halls, which then makes them a beguiling part of the experiential package. Trailers, especially nowadays, have this nasty habit of raising your expectations, and making you connect the story dots in your head, when, instead of playing Nostradamus, you ought to be jouncing along the cinematic ride. For some inexplicable reason, I watched the trailer of Kahaani 2 (Story). For an even more unfathomable reason, I also had the audacity to do a preview of this piece. As it turns out…

Director Sujoy Ghosh, who wrote the story with Suresh Nair, and also penned the screenplay, has a tough act to follow. Much like M. Night Shyamalan, who, after The Sixth Sense, was expected to deliver a killer twist in every successive project regardless of the plot premise, Ghosh has the unenviable task of living up to the nail-biting Kahaani. Which, to me, is a tad unfair, much like expecting composer Rahul Dev Burman to churn out only cabarets, and wondering Did he discover papa Burman’s diary?  when he gave his heart to classical music-based projects and songs. And then there’s the diary in Kahaani 2, that forms the premise for a gripping first half and some flashbacks. But, I get ahead of myself. You’re introduced to Vidya Sinha (Vidya Balan), her daughter-on-a-wheelchair Mini (Naisha Khanna), and their rather low-key, but happy life in Chandannagar. And on an ordinary day that involves a discharged mobile phone, Mini’s nurse not turning up for work, Vidya running late for work, you watch, all tense and worried, as events avalanche into a gigantic ball of panic and upend the mother-daughter’s thus far staid life.

Vidya Balan and Tunisha Sharma share some tender bonding

There’s a horrifying hit-and-run incident that leaves Vidya battling for life, and marks the entry of Sub-inspector Inderjeet Singh (Arjun Rampal), transferred recently to the Chandannagar police station, and who now must investigate who the woman under the oxygen mask is. In the process of rummaging her drawer, Inder discovers Vidya’s diary, and thus begins his journey of delving into her past, and the story behind her and Mini. Director Ghosh keeps this part tightly wound, flashing back eight years into the scenic Kalimpong, stationing grey filters into his lens, as, you and Inder discover, how the idyllic spot nurses a dark and blood-curdling secret – one that involves Mini (the younger character played by Tunisha Sharma), her invidiously creepy uncle-grandmother pair of Mohit and Daadi Dewan (Jugal Hansraj and Amba Sanyal). There’s some genuinely heart-warming and gut churning moments of bonding between Vidya (who’s actually Durga Rani Singh) and the little Mini. You also see Durga wearing her hesitant heart on her sleeve of hurt to Arun (Tota Roy Chowdhury, very, very likeable), some tender and tinder moments of romance sparkling between them. And as Inder’s own past comes into the picture and the diary, you are all poised to experiencing the knots and tensions getting resolved post-interval.

Vidya Balan and Tota Roy Chowdhury’s love life spins out of control

And this is where the suspense begins waning, and you begin to feel slightly underwhelmed, the wired up first half slackening into a linear revenge story, the only moment of gasp-inducing shock when Ghosh cuts in the accident shot into the frame when you least expect it, making you jump a couple of inches into the air. I know I said it’s not fair to box in the movie into the same package of expectations as what the first part delivered. In all probability, I wouldn’t have, had the movie not been part of the Kahaani franchise, and was, say, Durga Rani Diaries, or some such. That, and the trailer – more of that in a bit. When Durga Rani fired her first shot, the plot pretty much dissolved for me, the rest of the journey a predictable gestalt of story-telling and denouement. Which is a pity, for director Ghosh brings up a very courageous, uncomfortable, usually swept-under-the-carpet social horror of abuse and familial cover up. How can anyone ever, ever have a normal life after this horrifying trauma? How do we educate our children about this? How do we keep the predators at bay? How you wish the director had at least taken up this route post-interval, rather than going the action-and-rescue way that gives you no scope to perpend.


Director Sujoy Ghosh does capture the moody and lugubrious atmospherics with cinematographer Tapan Basu absolutely effectively. He keeps you in the firm grip of his sure-footed thriller until that aforementioned gun-shot. And he’s aided by a very powerful, auditory-arousing sound design by Anirban Sengupta. Note the incessant night chirping of the crickets and the ticking of the clock in Vidya-Mini’s house in Chandannagar, that takes you right there amongst them. There’s the absolutely immersive road sounds of horns and daily madness of sounds as Vidya rushes to work. Or, when Arun and Durga Rani are walking while he’s talking his heart, she in her own thoughts, and there’s soft guitars and bass by composer Clinton  Cerejo’s background score paving the path, until Arun interrupts her reverie, and in a snap, the city’s sounds come alive. So beautifully done, that. The background score’s very tight and insistently tense, nicely adding to the winding up of the plot wire. And then, for the sequence of Vidya rushing to the office, Cerejo uses some super panting sounds, à la Rahul Dev Burman to denote the breathless routine for most working mothers. The songs are very much in sync with the project’s mood, and Mehram is a solid support, intertwining the plot’s nostalgia and wistfulness. I truly missed Shankar Mahadevan for this one, but Arijit Singh it is.

Arjun Rampal reads diaries more than FIRs

As he did in the first part – and this is last reference to the predecessor, promise – Ghosh uses, for most part, Rahul Dev Burman’s numbers as a pinned reference of delightful nostalgia and relevant melodic currency for his scenes. In that, he’s superbly unpredictable, you not knowing when and what to expect. He also uses Rajesh Roshan’s twinkling melody, Ye Raatein Nayee Purani (Julie) that’s your gateway to Chandannagar. Look out then, for some gold dust of Rahul Dev along the trail –  Deke Deke Kato (the composer capturing the nuances of his composition in such a heartfelt sweetness of singing), Aakash Keno Dake (Kishore Kumar’s vocals flying unfettered), Jeena Kya Aji Pyar Bina (Kishore Kumar, Asha Bhosle adding magic as Rahul Dev uses some distant, floating violins to fill his melodic landscape), Shikwa Koi Tumse (Asha Bhosle gliding on the Rahul Dev dichotomic scale of pain and fast pace), Chhoti Si Kahani Se (Asha Bhosle pitter-pattering to Rahul Dev’s chlorophyllic tune and orchestration) and Aya Sanam Aya Deewana Tera (Kishore Kumar grandly announcing his intentions, while Rahul Dev is bold, brassy, and beautiful – and boy, could he fire a gun!) – among others.

The last song, picturised on Arjun Rampal, as he rides into Kolkata’s China Town, made me think – what the majestic duo of Rahul Dev and Kishore Kumar would have done for the actor – surely adding an additional dash of suave machismo. But Rampal’s act is not just an effortless oomph. He delivers supreme coolness and a well-controlled angst at his job, promotion, and past even while gamely fending off loving and not-so loving jibes from his wife and boss respectively  (played respectively and nicely by Manini Chadha and Kharaj Mukherjee). Also, note that semi-frustrated-eyes-rolling expression as he’s forced to chase a passport counterfeiter. Truly, a class act. Jugal Hansraj is very good as Mohit chachu, revelling in his smooth façade. Tunisha Sharma as the little Mini is absolutely a heartbreaker, her performance so believable, so touching, all you want to do is dandle her.

Vidya Balan is in hot purse-uit

Vidya Balan as Vidya/Durga Rani weaves a performance that’s towering without being overtly so. Every scene she’s in, she’s in invisible control, her expressions and body language a gossamer of strength, helplessness and determination, everyday humane grit, and kindness. She allows you to access her past, pain, and trauma even as she remains infuriatingly inaccessible on the outside. Without her, this project would be just about as believable as the WhatsApp theories and stories. And yes, as you trail her character’s story, you feel a chill of anticipation for the story to freeze your blood. Unfortunately, the remaining chills repose in the movie’s trailer, not traversing into the main feature, and that’s that. Meanwhile, I’m going back to my earlier relationship with trailers.

Kahaani 2 is rated UA (parental Guidance for children below the age of 12 years). There’s explicit reference to child abuse, a talk between Vidya Balan and Tunisha Sharma that all parents must have with their children at some point, and a scene between Vidya Balan and Jugal Hansraj with adult talk.  

Kahaani 2

Director Sujoy Ghosh  Running Time 2h 7 min

Writers Sujoy Ghosh, Suresh Nair (story)

Stars Vidya Balan, Arjun Rampal, Jugal Hansraj, Kharaj Mukherjee

Genres  Thriller

Watch the trailer of Kahaani 2 here:

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