This post contains SPOILERS because to paraphrase Don - to discuss Kahaani without mentioning spoilers is not difficult, it's impossible. Please just go watch the film before reading, you won't regret it, as it's a tight, solid thriller.
Goodness me, do they make good movies in Mumbai without sticking Vidya Balan in them? Does she get first pick for every character-driven film with an awesome female role?
One could hardly protest, if this was the case.
I think the real joy in watching a film like Kahaani are threefold. First off, it's a brilliant depiction of Kolkata in a way that doesn't come off like a bureau of tourism paid for it, but still makes you want to visit the city and learn about its various facets, much like Vidya's character in this does. Previously I didn't think much of the city, but now I definitely want to visit it.
Secondly, it is very likely to completely bamboozle its viewer in a way that is simply delightful. I would never claim to be the most perceptive or clever watcher when it comes to solving mysteries, but what this film does is that I'm sure even the most attentive viewer would be following the wrong things in the mystery. The simplest deception is often the most brilliant: when you're busy trying to piece together how the hell there are no records, no data, no sign of her husband, and how deep the corruption inside the Intelligence Bureau must go for the main perpetrator of the terrorist attack to go free, you fail to question that very starting point for the story. After all, it's just the starting point.
Vidya's performance convinced me so much that even the times when I maybe noticed some hints here and there, and thought to myself, "Maybe she's not really pregnant, maybe she's lying about some things," I quickly brushed these suspicions away and focused on something else. There's also a lot here to think about, and ponder through. The different multiplicities, from Bengali nicknames to Bob Biswas' ordinary demeanor, and the parallel mysteries of the missing husband and the terrorist attack two years previous, as well as the constant Durga festival references, keep the viewer busy, but just might make sure you miss out on the most essential mystery of them all. Our heroine is so genuine, likable, determined and puzzled by her new surroundings that you're more likely to suspect everybody else, not her.
Maybe because of that unquestioning reliance on our main character, if there's one thing I wish the film had had more of, it's back story for her. How long was this all planned? Did she have background in her husband's line of work? Of course, not all questions need to be answered, far from it, but it's a thing I found myself thinking through after the film ended.
The performances are pretty much all solid. I doubt I'm the only viewer who really warmed to the Bengali actor Parabrattam Chatterjee. He conveniently reminded me that I've only seen one Bengali film - my continuing like of Tamil & Telugu films kind of makes me forget that regional, non-Hindi cinema doesn't just mean films of those two big industries, and there's much outside them I should probably explore.