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KAHAANI: Kolkata gets a much needed push through the oeuvre of Hindi films
March 12, 2012 04:46:15 PM IST Enkayaar, Glamsham Editorial
When was the last time when a mainstream Hindi cinema was shot in Kolkata? Probably when Mani Ratnam had shot YUVA, and then he had given the flavour of the city as a snapshot, but he could not give the city its due deserts probably owing to the fact that he was not a local boy! Now with KAHAANI, Sujoy Ghosh's new venture, starring the country's heartthrob Vidya Balan, Kolkata as a city has strode like a colossus to claim its legitimate dues. The catalyst has been the story of the film, which has left the audience gaping in admiration, as KAHAANI has turned out to be a suspense film worth watching for.
Even otherwise if one were to do a quick scan of the mystery films that have been made in the world of Hindi cinema, it has had a Kolkata connect- owing probably to the fact that mystery has been an integral part of the oeuvre of the writers of Bengal. Underlining the enigma of mystery woven around the city of Kolkata in KAHAANI is the song sung by Usha Uthup, Kolkata city - 'Aami Shotti Bolchi', which is a kaleidoscopic shoot of the important lampposts of the city.
Cities which have been used as a backdrop for shooting a film, have emerged as sites of interest for the tourist circuit, and this could be precisely the reason why now the hitherto unexplored features of the city are highlighted through the cinematic oeuvre to create interest of the audience in the city and to kindle the latent urge for him to keep the city on radar of possible destinations of vacations. Those who may not have visited Kolkata and those who may not have had the chance of traveling in the metro, yes, Kolkata was the first city to have Metro, could have a glimpse of the first metro in the country and can compare how the point of differentiation has emerged between Kolkata metro and Delhi metro. In context of KAHAANI, Kolkata metro has already had a controversy with the censor board as well. Censor board wished to get the scene of the suicide on the metro track deleted from the film under the impression that it would deter the audience from seeking inspiration to do the same thing. The moot point is whether a scene in the film could inspire somebody to commit suicide, as suicides keep on happening on the Kolkata metro track once in a while and a film cannot be blamed for its occurrence in the future. As Vidya Balan had been saying in connection with the promotion of the film that films only reflect what is happening in the society, and if a suicide scene associated with Kolkata metro has been shot in KAHAANI, it is an obvious reference to whatever has been happening in the society in Kolkata.
Another significant cultural nuance that has been picked up in KAHAANI is the manner in which the words are pronounced by a Bengali and a non-Bengali, the symbolism being used to convey the rich diversity of our culture and language and how it cannot be interpreted in a straight-jacketed manner. A cultural response to a word is more a by-product of the value system and also the manner in which the same is tried to be explained by those who may not be aware about the cultural response. As it has been told by the police inspector Rana in KAHAANI, everybody in Kolkata has two names and it is the popular name by which a person is known, and it is indeed an underlining reality of the Kolkata cultural landscape or for that matter the cultural landscape of Bengal per se. In a very subtle manner in the film where Vidya Balan throws up her hands associated with the utterance of the name of her elusive husband is a pointer to this cultural nuance.
KAHAANI could in all probability be the film where for the last time the yellow and black iconic Ambassador cabs that are a vital landscape element of the city of Kolkata could be seen by the Hindi cinema fans. It is owing to the fact that by the time an opportunity to shoot another Hindi film in Kolkata comes up, the colour of the taxis would have changed, as now they are being painted blue and black.
It is the twin character of resilience and vulnerability portrayed by Vidya Balan through her acting that carries the day for the film apart from a convincing performance by Prambratta Chattopadhyay as the police inspector. KAHAANI indeed is worth a dekkho.