Remember the major part of last year: when I would watch one movie after another, hoping for an interesting and stimulating experience, and each time I would return, disappointed, pretty much like I would beat myself up every time the Indian cricket team royally surrendered to its opponents.
But suddenly the new year has turned the tide, with one good movie after another: The Descendants, J.Edgar, Carnage, The Iron Lady, The Artist, Paan Singh Tomar and now Kahaani.
Now I am not a feminist by any stretch of imagination, but Vidya Balan somehow manages to bring out the woman in me and makes me feel proud of it: from Parineeta to Ishqiya to No One Killed Jessica or even The Dirty Picture to some extent, she is one actress (and here I use the feminine gender deliberately though actor is now the common terminology) who has carved a niche for herself in the stereotypical industry without giving in to the conventional notions of ‘acceptance’. After years of playing eye candy in malecentric movies, the Bollywood heroine has finally found a voice of her own in the form of Vidya Balan.
May be I am biased, may be I am too much a Bong at heart or may be I just got carried away with the good old tough male-bashing woman who, in the veneer of all that bravado, is just any other girl desperately looking for the happy family she almost had.
But there I was in a shady theatre for a late night show with a friend who felt strangely out-of-place in a Bong-dominated audience, watching Kolkata come alive on screen with all its subtle nuances: the familiar Kalighat Metro Station (the closest to my house), the oft-visited Sarat Bose Road or Triangular Park, the slow trams plying on the dimly-lit streets and of course the quintessential Durga Puja. The generous sprinkling of Bengali dialogues, the broken Hindi and the typical atrocious diction (if Non-Bongs can mess with my name, we have every right to pronounce Vidya as Bidya… ON YOUR FACE) just added to the authenticity. And I loved breaking into an abusive slur with the rest of the loyal Bengali patrons as soon as Amitabh Bachchan started crucifying a popular Bengali song. If you ask for my honest opinion, it wasn’t so bad really and if anything, his contribution probably made the nation sing along to “Ekla Cholo Re”, rather than confining it to an esoteric Bengali audience. But hey, I was part of an unlikely majority in a Suburban Mumbai multiplex, and I was soaking up every bit of it.
Never had I seen so many Bengali actors come together in a Hindi movie, secure enough to play second fiddle to a Non Bong female protagonist. In fact, Parambrata Chatterjee (he was cute as the angry, uncouth but intelligent cop in Baishey Srabon, but he has outdone himself as the inspector who slowly gives in to the alluring charm of a headstrong pregnant woman) had no qualms about declaring himself as the ‘heroine’ to Vidya Balan.
As for the protagonist herself, for the major part of the movie she was the exemplary femme fatale: beautiful, brave, intelligent and determined to go to any lengths to get her way, but vulnerable enough to lure men into letting her have her way. The climax is gripping enough to shock you to your wits and Balan executes it perfectly as she flashes her eyes like a woman possessed. And the next scene tells you why: the wrath of a wronged woman is swapped with the tears of a helpless girl who had just lost everything she ever wanted for no fault of her own.
Every woman has a story of her own, and Vidya Balan sure tells it well…