Director: Sujoy Ghosh
Cast: Vidya Balan, Arjun Rampal, Kharaj Mukherji, Tota Roy
Choudhuri, Kaushik Sen, Jugal Hansraj, Tunisha Sharma
A decent enough follow-up to the 2012 sleeper hit that unveiled a new kind of woman-centric Bollywood thriller, Sujoy Ghosh's Kahaani 2 is a grim, gritty and gripping drama that addresses a serious theme in the garb of a fast-paced genre film.
Parts of the final quarter of the 130-minute film are somewhat pat and predictable, which softens its overall impact.
Yet, its taut screenplay (written by Ghosh himself) and sustained narrative pace make Kahaani 2 an edge-of-the-seat ride that is as exhilarating as it is unsettling.
It tells the dark, disturbing tale of a tormented woman fighting tooth and nail to save her daughter.
Kahaani 2 is propelled primarily by a first-rate performance from Vidya Balan, who injects life into every scene that she is at the heart of.
The film also benefits immensely from the technical support that the director receives from cinematographer Tapan Basu and editor Namrata Rao.
The former gives Kahaani 2 an evocative visual texture and feel, while the latter imparts to it a compelling rhythm that inexorably draws the audience into the recesses of the story.
Kahaani 2 gets off the blocks without wasting a second, sets a fast and furious pace, and keeps up the heady momentum going all the way down to the bitter end.
The story opens in a cramped rented house in Chandannagar, home to the middle-class female protagonist (Balan) and her daughter (Tunisha Sharma), who is paralysed from the waist down and has her hopes pinned on a surgery in the US.
The duo's hopes are dashed as their troubled past catches up with them. The youngster vanishes into the blue and the older woman, hit by a speeding car, ends up comatose in hospital.
From here on, Kahaani 2 takes on the dimensions of a police procedural as a sub inspector (Arjun Rampal) gets down and dirty in pursuit of the secrets behind the disappearing girl and the hospitalized woman.
With one sharp stroke following another, the director creates tension, intrigue and suspense around the plight of the female protagonist who is determined not to go down without a fight.
Kahaani 2 is set in the erstwhile French colony of Chandannagar (a quaint town 35 km away from Bengal's capital city), the pretty hill station of Kalimpong and the streets of Kolkata, but it shies away from presenting overly pretty and burnished images.
Both the acting and the visuals are marked by realism, an attribute that enhances the effect of the thrills that Kahaani 2 delivers.
While this film is dominated almost entirely by Balan, the other actors in the cast are no pushovers either. Rampal makes an impact in several scenes. Manini Chadha, playing the cop's wife in her big screen debut, shows flashes of promise.
Kahaani 2 is not in the Kahaani league. But it is a true-blue thriller that, despite a few bumps along the way, is many notches above the average.
It isn't just Vidya Balan who makes the film watchable, but it surely is at its most luminous when she is on the screen.