A woman with the potential to make it big. It is not that she cannot: she simply will not.
The closest anyone has come to being an adopted daughter.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Kahaani: not a review

I liked Kahaani. The story was nice, the script was crisp, and Bidya Vidya Balan was really brilliant. A well-made thriller, packed with a surprisingly Tollywood-dominated star cast - all of whom have supported Vidya really well.

However, seldom have everything - the performances, the story, the script and the entire execution - taken a backseat. They had to. With Kolkata as one of the competitors, the contest was a no-brainer from the very first scene.

Kahaani is about Kolkata. More importantly, it's about Kolkata the way I have known it to be. No false overglamorous depiction of my city, no. For example, a significant part of the story revolves around - not The Oberoi Grand - not even Hotel Rutt-Deen, but Monalisa Guest House.

M o n a l i s a   G u e s t   H o u s e.

Did the director actually know about a kid in shorts, cuddled up in a window seat on a 221 or a 47A or a Golf Green-BBD Bag, looking out of the window to catch a glimpse the ubiquitous guest house every time he passed it?

"Ma, what is a guest house?"
"When people come from outside Kolkata and they don't know anyone to stay with, they stay in hotels and guest houses."

And then, Maharani. Possibly the most popular food joint in 700029, the pin code I associate the best years of my life with. One of those places whose food you can actually taste if you concentrate for a while, even if you're maybe a thousand miles away.

And then, Mocambo. Not Peter Cat. Not Bar-B-Q. Not even Olypub. But Mocambo. My Mocambo. The best Park Street restaurant that ever was. Of Mulligatawny soups and Chateaubriand steaks; of hideous red sofas in a 3-1 layout and a bizarrely ancient decor; of memories worth, well, no idea.

This is my Kolkata. Not the Kolkata usually depicted in movies - of lofty skyscrapers, suave workplaces and expensive hotels; or of the most dizzying depths of misery and poverty, aimed at portraying a disturbing image of my city to the world.

This is Kolkata as seen by Kolkatans. The average, middle-class, graduate Kolkatan. One that rides metro rails or the occasional taxi; one that goes to the Pujo at Triangular Park, one of the middle-level pujos in the vicinity of the giants like Ekdalia Evergreen and Maddox Square; one that takes the tram as a mode of transport and still manages to seek pleasure in gazing out of the window; one who braves the Lansdowne Road traffic in public transport; one whose mother stays up for him and makes anxious calls whenever he is late from work; one who probably earns less than his counterparts in the more glamorous cities, but has still stayed back - not because of lack of opportunities, but because the city is the world to him.

Sujoy Ghosh knows Kolkata inside out. He doesn't fake it. He really does know the city. Well enough to make a Kolkatan desperate to churn out his insides and maybe let go the loudest of yells.

Thanks mate.Thanks for re-creating my childhood, adolescence and twenties on screen.


  1. When you write like this, one wonders why you don't write more often. I can only compare it to Ustad Rashid Khan's singing in some sense... the common aspect being that they both appeal to my heart.

    1. @Apoorva - try reading some literature for a change

    2. @ Anonymous - and your point is?

  2. We see Kolkata in this movie exactly as it is!!! No adulteration, no exaggeration!!!And entire Hindi movie shot in Kolkata without the mention of the cliched rosogolla and mishti doi...Kudos for showing that "rastar chaayer dokan" captures the essence of Kolkata much better than rosogolla does!!!

  3. its an awesome movie indeed..
    she did great work.. worth watching.

    visiting after a very long time..
    hope u doing fine

  4. It's an wonderful piece. One of your best this year. Also it talks about our Kolkata.

    Darun hoyechhe!!

  5. outstanding movie.........
    amar, tor Kolkata - bhalobasha aar-o bere gelo :)

  6. I don't know about Mocambo ... that one is well documented enough as one of the old restaurants in Kolkata, but Maharani?

    That is the stuff that is so para dependent ... and you really need to live in this area to know that.

  7. thumbs up! ---hijibijbij

  8. Resonates excellently with us probashis. Thank you for this tribute to my "para"

  9. Khoobi bhaalo likhechen moshaay. I am also a 700029 person (or "paarson")....and I enjoyed the Kol background as much as you did (or deed).


  10. "This is Kolkata as seen by Kolkatans." *Fuck you* ! 1/3 of people in Kolkatta live in slums.
    Just because you only talk to middle-class, graduate Kolkatans doesn't mean that only they are the Kolkatans.

  11. devilled crabs! mocambo=devilled crabs! :)

  12. Nice review Abhishek. I haven't seen the movie, never been to Kolkata. But your post reminded me, my younger days. Good luck.

  13. Director had brought the real Kolkata alive.

  14. the best part of the movie is that you cant differ the reel life & the real life Kolkata & I guess with an amazing script, story this 'bangaliyana' is one of d major reasons behind the grand success of Kahaani

  15. I liked the way you have reviewed it Abhishek!
    To me, Kahani is a classic, when I first saw this movie I was out of India, and I could not tell your the feeling!

    Bong's Belleza

  16. How do u do this Abhishek... You made me love the city even more... U magician... :)

  17. Kahaani can be compared with any top class Hollywood thriller! Extremely well made movie! Yes the protagonist of the movie is definitely Kolkata! And Yes - 221 kore Deshopriyo park er more theke lake er dike jaowa Kolkata 700014 e bere otha ekta choto cheler chokhe pora Monalisa Guest House, shei cheleta boro hoye tar bandhobi (pore bou) ke niye Mocambo te Chicken Supreme Khaowa - shob kichu kothao jeno apamor shob modhdhobitto shadharon Bangalike shampurna bhabe chuye jaye!
    Aar ei cimnema shotti Kolkatar cinema - Airport theke (hariye jaowa) Nonapukur tram depo chuye Thakurpukur - shob tai to Kolkata! Thanks Abhishek - eto shundor ekta shoja shapta lekhar jonno aamar shohorke niye!

  18. Very aptly titled. Its not a review.Its a tribute.I did not like Kolkata,when I first arrived here.But the city gradually grew on me.Today when I watch Kahani,I am as thankful to Sujoy Ghosh as you are.Yes,The city completed my incomplete identity.Beautifully written.