Almost all my closest female friends, over the past three decades, have confessed being abused as a child or teenager, at some point. Even that small sample size has convinced me that 80% of Indian ladies have faced some sort of sexual abuse whilst they were still a minor. It probably extrapolates to why Indian women are extremely skeptical, disengaging and choosy about sex (and even friendships) than their western counterparts. Kahaani 2 has minor abuse, within the family, as its theme – which you may have guessed from the trailers – a subject kept under wraps by Bollywood, aside seen in ‘Monsoon Wedding‘ and very recently, ‘Highway‘.
A major chunk of Bollywood 2016’s best movies have women centric themes – Neerja, Pink, Udta Punjab, Happy Bhag Jayegi. Like the first three movies mentioned, Kahaani 2 also leaves the audience introspective, but sadly, only till the interval. The depth of child abuse from within the family, is no more the base theme in last hour of the movie as needless loose ends – previous marriage secret, framed for a murder/how got away with child never explained; convenient coincidences – a tell all diary, a mobile still there in same garbage as a week ago; and needless complications – an accident, coma state, eight years later revenge uncle comes and for heaven’s sake, a six-year-old doesn’t commit suicide all of a sudden – makes Kahaani 2 at best a good movie for theatre viewing, great for home viewing.
Sequels, globally, have very rarely been better to a solid original film. Aside Lage Raho Munnabhai, there has been no Bollywood franchise where the sequel betters the original. Hence director, producer, writer, Sujoy Ghosh, despite the four-year gap, knew history was against him. Yet Sujoy left no stone unturned in making Kahaani 2 as authentic as he could – the poor Hindi dialect of the Bengalis (‘uska beti’); dilapidated and dim lit houses outside Kolkata suburbs, wet empty quiet roads of Bengal where everyone goes to sleep at nine pm and the dark dingy government hospital where you wish you never land up.
Surrounding these details are some excellent performances by the lead pair. Arjun Rampal’s evolution as an actor since Rajneeti is best summarized in a three-minute span – where first he mockingly says ‘ha ha ha’ to his wife (refreshing Manini Chaddha) in his sleep and soon to a hawaldar in sarcasm. You smile at both those ‘ha ha ha’s. His scenes with Manini are very engaging despite the semi town unglamorous settings. The support cast have done very well including Jugal Hansraj – who clearly looks like the 1970s Navin Nischal.
Vidya Balan offcourse is the heart and soul behind this franchise. One of the leading performers of modern Bollywood – alongside Priyanka, Kangana, Alia and Anushka – Vidya’s career, after The Dirty Picture and Kahaani 2, surprisingly didn’t take off the way it should have. In between the prequel and sequel her only notable flick was a low-budget detective flick. During first half of Kahaani 2, Vidya seems to be still in the Bobby Jasoos mode. An accident and coma state spoils it all. It may have helped to keep the suspense till the end if Vidya was Vidya or Durga, or indeed two characters, and make it a police cat and mouse chase than a revenge saga. Watch the movie for Vidya Balan though, entire (brilliant) first half you would be transported and feel strongly for her world.
Rating: 3.5/5 (Great for home viewing, good for theatre – which itself is a rarity in Bollywood)
Box Office Prediction:With budget of 25 crores, Kahaani 2 will just about surpass that number and end up faring average. It suffers from a six sigma original, Kahaani, which would have been tough to match, specially with much weaker script.On another note, despite rating the two movies similarly, major publication reviewers have pointed Kahaani 2 flaws more vocally than the glossy Dear Zindagi’s shortcomings. That unfairly puts Kahaani 2 at a disadvantage too, but then that’s the ‘kahaani’ too, of the real world.