WTF ASIA 49: Kahaani (2012)
A pregnant woman searches for her missing husband, only to find herself embroiled in a terrorism investigation. I highly recommendâ€¦almost all of this movie. Almost all.
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The movie starts out with a gas attack on a Kolkata Metro Rail train car. Everyone in the car dies. Suddenly the 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 personâ€™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.
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.
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 husbandâ€™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 â€œrunning waterâ€ boy Bishnu.
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 morgueâ€¦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.
Dead end follows dead end until Agnes asks to meet Vidya. 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, â€œa funny oneâ€ 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 Milanâ€™s files, but all she got was a â€œRestrictedâ€ 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.
Little does Agnes know, but her searching around for Milan Damji had raised some alarm bells. It is not long before people on both sides of the law come to try to shut her down and Vidya as well.
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 liked the character of Vidya. She had this mix of genuine gentleness and steely resolve. She was always grateful towards those who helped her out, but she never strayed from her mission and bristled against those who underestimated her or refused 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.
There are some flaws in the film. There is one chase scene that would have been exciting except for the fact that the person being chased had a gun and never even pointed it at the chaser. The main character is supposed to do a little hacking on the side and her hacking isâ€¦wellâ€¦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 donâ€™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 happens, which is fine. It just grinds the movie to a screeching halt and completely spoonfeeds the audience. Whereas a certain movie that did something similar did it quickly, this one seemed to do it slowly, and with an unnecessary voiceover. And then there is this cheesy flashback. And then some moralizing epilog.
In all honesty, I would have rather the movie had completely cut those last seven minutes before the end credits, even if it meant having a lot of questions (and one thing that would have otherwise come across as a plothole) unanswered, forcing the viewer to come up with theories. Alternately, I would have been okay with these sequences shortened to maybe a minute, taken out the over-explanation, and maybe sprinkled throughout the climax. But, no, the movie had to treat the viewers like morons. At first I was certain that this seven-minute ending was the result of executive meddling, but I learned through the directorâ€™s commentary on the DVD that it was all his idea. Well, shoot.
There are movies that I really liked except for the ending. This one seemed to already have a fine (though somewhat incomplete) ending, and then tacked on a bunch of other stuff that ruined the plot momentum and emotional impact. Watching the movie again, I did not totally hate the ending as much as I did the first time, but only because I expected the total letdown. Perhaps, though, the best way to watch it would be to watch it up to a little bit past the 1 hour 51 minute mark, wait for someone to start talking, and then just stop the movie. Just stop it. Sure, you will be left with some questions, but maybe the movie is best left ambiguous. If you do want to know the full reveal, the Wikipedia page answers most of them except for the possible plothole one, and you might be able to guess that one on your own.
Now that I have warned you about the endingâ€¦for three paragraphs, you may be wary of watching it. Donâ€™t be. Just be wary of where you are in the movie towards the end. 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 donâ€™t dislike it as much as I do. That would be great, and more of an incentive for you to watch this movie. That I complain about the ending so much 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. So, I still think that you should watch it, ending or not.
Next Time: Memories of Matsuko (Japan: 2006, approx. 130 minutes).
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Time After Next: City of Life and Death (China: 2009, approx. 135 minutes).