Tuesday 17 April 2012

Kahini (Fiction) [1995]

While watching a film, viewers expect a formal beginning, a middle section and a clear ending where all the complexities get neatly resolved. Malay Bhattacharya’s debut feature Kahini, like a number of arthouse films that have worked outside the aforementioned ‘system’, didn’t just challenge that notion, it dealt a fine blow to it as well. The end result, consequently, was as confounding, intriguing and understandably discomfiting, as it was strangely engaging and gratifying too. The deceptively simple storyline has two parallel strands – in one we have Rajat (Dhritiman Chatterjee) who, while rummaging through old letters and worn off photographs, remisces about his life, the myriad experiences that he has had and the various people he has come in contact with (narrated as if being read out from his personal diary); in the other, Rajat, a brusque taxi driver, and a mild-mannered poster artist have kidnapped a child, and have hit the road where they come across a number of curious characters. Despite the harrowing consequences of the inexplicable kidnapping, the director’s intent was clearly in portrayal of the journey as opposed to leading us to any sort of denouement. Though the director never confirms regarding the veracity of either of the two threads, courtesy a sly plot twist (that might be easily overlooked by viewers who aren’t observant or attentive) the latter thread might just be playing out in Rajat’s mind – perhaps a recreation of his memory as a child. The film’s metanarrative and its blurring to the point of indistinguishability between past, present, reality and alternate reality, reminded me of another Bengali film, viz. Bappaditya Bandopadhyay’s Houseful.

Director: Malay Bhattacharya
Genre: Thriller/Psychological Thriller/Experimental Film
Language: Bengali
Country: India

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