Kahaani (IPA: [kəˈɦaːni]; English transl. Story) is a 2012 Indian Hindi-language mystery thriller film co-written, co-produced and directed by Sujoy Ghosh. It stars Vidya Balan as Vidya Bagchi, a pregnant woman searching for her missing husband in Kolkata during the festival of Durga Puja, assisted by Satyoki “Rana” Sinha (Parambrata Chatterjee) and Khan (Nawazuddin Siddiqui).
Made on a shoestring budget of ₹80 million (US$1.1 million), Kahaani was conceived and developed by Ghosh, who co-wrote the film with Advaita Kala. The crew often employed guerrilla-filmmaking techniques on Kolkata’s city streets to avoid attracting attention. The film was noted for its deft portrayal of the city and for making use of many local crew and cast members. Kahaani explores themes of feminism and motherhood in male-dominated Indian society. The film also makes several allusions to Satyajit Ray’s films such as Charulata (1964), Aranyer Din Ratri (1970) and Joi Baba Felunath (1979).
Kahaani was released worldwide on 9 March 2012. Critics praised the screenplay, the cinematography and the performances of the lead actors. Following critical acclaim and word-of-mouth publicity, the film earned ₹1.04 billion (US$15 million) worldwide in 50 days. The film won several awards, including three National Film Awards and five Filmfare Awards. The latter included trophies for Best Director (Ghosh) and Best Actress (Vidya). A sequel, titled Kahaani 2: Durga Rani Singh, was released on 2 December 2016.
A poison-gas attack on a Kolkata Metro Rail compartment kills the passengers on board. Two years later Vidya Bagchi, a pregnant software engineer, arrives in Kolkata from London during the Durga Puja festivities in search of her missing husband, Arnab Bagchi. A police officer, Satyoki “Rana” Sinha, offers to help. Although Vidya claims that Arnab went to Kolkata on an assignment for the National Data Center (NDC), initial investigations suggest that no such person was employed by the NDC.
Agnes D’Mello, the NDC’s head of human resources, suggests to Vidya that her husband resembled former employee Milan Damji, whose file is probably kept in the old NDC office. Before Agnes can provide any further help she is killed by Bob Biswas, an assassin working undercover as a life insurance agent. Vidya and Rana break into the NDC office and find Damji’s file, barely escaping an encounter with Bob, who is searching for the same information. Meanwhile, the attempts to obtain Damji’s records have attracted the attention of two Intelligence Bureau (IB) officials in Delhi—the chief Bhaskaran K. and his deputy Khan. Khan arrives in Kolkata and reveals that Damji was a rogue IB agent responsible for the poison-gas attack. In spite of Khan’s warnings, Vidya continues her search, fearing that Arnab’s resemblance to Damji may have led him into trouble.
The address on Damji’s record leads Vidya and Rana to a dilapidated flat. An errand boy from the neighbourhood tea stall identifies R. Sridhar, an NDC officer, as a frequent visitor to Damji’s flat. Bob attempts to kill Vidya, but fails, and is run over by a truck during a chase. Examination of Bob’s mobile phone leads Vidya and Rana to an IP address sending instructions to kill her. They break into Sridhar’s office to verify his IP address, but he is alerted electronically and returns to his office. Vidya accidentally shoots Sridhar dead during a scuffle, which upsets Khan, who had wanted him alive.
Sridhar’s computer data reveals a code, which when deciphered reveals Bhaskaran’s phone number. Vidya calls Bhaskaran to tell him that she has retrieved sensitive documents from Sridhar’s office. She asks Bhaskaran to help find her husband in exchange for the documents, but Bhaskaran tells her to contact the local police. Vidya soon gets a call from an unknown number however, warning her that she should hand over the documents to the caller if she wishes to see her husband alive. Khan thinks the caller is Milan Damji.
Vidya goes to meet Damji, followed by Rana and Khan. Damji cuts the meeting short when Vidya expresses her doubt that he will be able to return her husband in exchange for the sensitive file, and he attempts to leave. Vidya tries to stop him, and in the ensuing struggle Damji draws a gun on her. Vidya disarms him using the prosthetic belly she has been using to fake her pregnancy and promptly stabbing him in the neck with her hair stick before shooting him with his own gun. She flees into the crowd before the police arrive, leaving a thank you note for Rana and a pen drive containing data from Sridhar’s computer, which leads to Bhaskaran’s arrest. Rana concludes that no Vidya or Arnab Bagchi ever existed, and that Vidya had been using the police and the IB to achieve her own ends.
Vidya is revealed to be the widow of Arup Basu, an IB officer and Damji’s colleague, who was killed in the poison-gas attack, which also caused Vidya to immediately fall unconscious upon seeing her husband’s corpse and suffer a miscarriage. In her mission to avenge his and their unborn child’s death, Vidya was helped by retired IB officer Pratap Bajpayee, who suspected the involvement of a top IB official.
Credits adapted from Bollywood Hungama.
Vidya Balan as Vidya Bagchi
Parambrata Chatterjee as Asst Sub-Inspector Satyoki “Rana” Sinha
Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Deputy Inspector General A. Khan
Indraneil Sengupta as Milan Damji/Arnab Bagchi
Dhritiman Chatterjee as Director Intelligence Bureau Bhaskaran K.
Saswata Chatterjee as Bob Biswas
Darshan Jariwala as Colonel Pratap Bajpayee
Abir Chatterjee as Major Arup Basu
Shantilal Mukherjee as R. Shridhar, chief technical officer at the NDC
Kharaj Mukherjee as Sub-Inspector Chatterjee, a friendly inspector at the Kalighat Police Station.
Colleen Blanche as Agnes D’Mello
Nitya Ganguli as Mr. Das, the guest house owner.
Rwitobroto Mukherjee as Bishnu, a worker at the guest house.
Pamela Bhuttoria as Sapna, an employee at NDC.
Kalyan Chatterjee as Paresh Pal, a clay artist and a police informer.
Riddhi Sen as Poltu, a worker at a tea-stall.
Masood Akhtar as Rasik Tyagi, systems supervisor at the NDC