I can’t tell you a lot. Except, watch Kahaani, a 2012 Hindi-language thriller directed by Sujoy Ghosh.
My one hint for you is that Kahaani is the Hindu word for story. Who is telling who a story? And whose story should you be paying attention to and detangling?
The film opens with the female protagonist, Vidya Bagchi, a software engineer from the U.K., arriving in Kolkata, in search of her missing husband, Arnab Bagchi. Vidya, arriving with only a single suitcase, is also many months pregnant. We find out that Arnab came to India to work at the National Data Center (NDC) for a two-week assignment. He did not return to England after the assignment.
But isn’t this a typical storyline? The local police that Vidya works with seem to think so. Albeit friendly enough and willing to inquire into a “missing person,” the local police are all feeling sorry for Vidya—they all think Arnab has left Vidya after a convenient business trip to India because of the looming responsibilities of parenthood. And this presumed reasoning makes even more sense as the film progresses because no one, I repeat, NO ONE, seems to know a thing about Arnab Bagchi.
We begin to wonder if Arnab actually exists? There are clues that hint to a double identity—is Arnab Bagchi actually someone named Milan Damji? Milan Damji is a wanted criminal who was responsible for a metro bombing of Kolkata two years back. Damji has been in hiding ever since—and quite successfully—the Intelligence Bureau has not had any luck tracking him down. We spend the film wondering if Arnab Bagchi and Milan Damji is one and the same person? Or alternatively, we wonder if Arnab has been mistaken as Milan? As we follow the twists and turns of our minds trying to piece this puzzle together, we also get to enjoy the literal twists and turns of the city.
This is because aside from the storyline, the cinematography of the film is worth noting. We snake through the big and small streets of Kolkata as we follow Vidya on her search. We see the city’s Metro stations, hand-pulled rickshaws, and also the narrow bylanes where only pedestrians walk through. Kahaani also showcases the people of the city. Vidya starts her search at the police station, chatting with local law enforcement and not with foreigners at the British consulate. She also stays in a guest-house with a sole manager/owner and not a fancy hotel with a 24/7 front desk. There is a charming scene in which Vidya asks why she doesn’t have access to hot water when the guest house advertises “running hot water.” To this, the manager calls the errand boy Bishnu and cleverly answers:
“Madam. This is Bishnu. If you want hot water, then call Bishnu. He will come running with hot water. Running hot water… our Bishnu.”
BUT let me stop here. I don’t want to give anymore away. This film is much more than just a story of a wife looking for her husband. Watch it.