Kahaani 2: Durga Rani Singh

kahaani-2-poster

Kahaani 2: Durga Rani Singh
Release date: December 2, 2016
Directed by: Sujoy Ghosh
Cast: Vidya Balan, Arjun Rampal, Tunisha Sharma, Jugal Hansraj, Kharaj Mukherjee, Tota Roychoudhury, Manini Chadha, Amba Sanyal

In the spring of 2012, or as we in Mumbai call it, the relatively less hot days of the year, Vidya Bagchi sifted through the colorful streets of Kolkata to find her husband with a heavily pregnant womb, and some layers of deception running along. In the created universe, Bagchi was an easily believable protagonist. A vulnerable woman with life growing inside her, considered as the most pious state of womanhood by constantly pushed rhetoric and religious propaganda that bills a woman’s motherhood as an ideal.

This time around, she’s not as two-dimensional. Not half as easily believable. In a small song-montage, Vidya Sinha (Vidya Balan) describes an idyllic Sunday with her paralyzed daughter Mini (Tunisha Sharma). A few minutes later, chaos begins to descend on them, and a car accident later, Sub-Inspector Inderjeet Singh (Arjun Rampal) discovers minute details of Vidya’s life through a diary that she maintained until eight years prior to the day.

Soon, another angle floats to the surface. Inspector Haldar (Kharaj Mukherjee) claims that Durga Rani Singh is a wanted criminal who’s forged a new identity, and is apparently in the sleepy town of Chandanagar; “the town that’s as big as a football field”. Durga bears a stark resemblance to Vidya, and that is me putting it mildly. Inderjeet is conflicted about the two sides to the comatose Vidya/absconding Durga situation.

Eventually, from looking for her husband in Kahaani to looking for her daughter in Kahaani 2, the extensive searching and innocuous prying gives way for a prolonged dark exposition of Durga’s origins. Her punctuated loneliness, her social anxiety and a throbbing sense of grasping on to someone who she empathizes with, who she sees herself as a younger version of her own self. Durga confines herself to a tiny house in the hills of Kalimpong, for reasons initially unclear. Bereft of vanity, and any desire to pursue her interests beyond her job at a school, she struggles to make emotional relationships.

This Vidya is far removed from the amiable, and charming, sundress clad Vidya of the earlier film. Her timidity, attributed to a graver issue, can often be alluded to create an element of doubt in her actions and her statements. A looming sense of suspicion hovers around the affairs, much like noir films of the past. The film deals with sexual abuse from a crystallized point of view, where the crime is openly addressed, and quite openly accepted by the perpetrator as well, separating the enablers from the resistor and the sole condemning agent.

Vidya Balan’s performance scales the heights viewers have come to expect from her over the years. She powers through clumsy, everyday violence-like action sequences, and sets the house on fire, literally and figuratively, with psychotic rage for that one slightly predictable final jolt in the plot. Her passionate display, along with fast, brisk cuts in the build-up to the revelation of her character’s years in Kalimpong, supported by a devious Jugal Hansraj, a mean Kharaj Mukherjee, and a weary Arjun Rampal, with a slightly overtly chirpy Manini Chadha as his wife, keep the film heavily gripping for vast parts.

As comparisons are bound to be made, Kahaani 2 is as different of a film as it is similar to Kahaani. There’s a failed attempt at resurrecting a Bob Biswas like mercenary, a purpose for deception and there is expansive range for Balan to be the boss that she is at this acting job, and the limitedly infringing landscapes of Kolkata. Kahaani 2 is pulp, though not as cheesy as genre films, still somewhere a mix between the traditional and bold, constantly entertaining.

My rating: *** (3 out of 5)

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