Kahaani 2—Durga Rani Singh”: the suffix was the original title of the film. Not an audience-attractive name, it was prefixed by a brand, and that also proves its undoing for lovers of “Kahaani.”

Few thrillers with a twist that have been made in Hindi cinema compare with “Kahaani” in the completely shocking twist it gave us — “Gupt,” “A Wednesday!” and, to an extent, “Jewel Thief” come close. What Ghosh delivers this time is a well-made thriller, more akin to his production “TE3N” in structure, denouement and form (the dull and gloomy tenor rather than the bright colors of “Kahaani”), riddled with some flaws and illogic, and therefore not — to be blunt — a patch on the 2012 original, which began in the multiplex in which I had watched it with only 12 audience members in the matinee show and swelled to capacity audience by the next day!

Our argument: they could have just used a better title. After all, even for a Ramesh Sippy, a “Sholay” happens just once, though his subsequent films “Shaan” and “Shakti” were as good, and, in certain diverse aspects, better than the epic for which he is best known! Why carry additional pressure when you are making a film that has no connection with the original film except Kolkata? Even the role of Durga was first offered to Aishwarya Rai Bachchan — never mind the similarities to “Jazbaa.”

Most filmmakers fail here, even of the caliber of Manoj Kumar, Vijay Anand, Manmohan Desai and Yash Chopra, when they try to match up to their most successful films. Not everyone is a Raj Kapoor or a B.R. Chopra.

So here we have Chandan Nagar single parent Vidya Sinha (Vidya Balan) living with her wheelchair-bound daughter (Naisha Khanna growing up to be Tunisha Sharma). When her daughter is suddenly kidnapped and she receives a call with her gagged picture, she rushes to where the kidnapper has called her. In her hurry, she has an accident and goes into a coma.

Investigating cop Inderjeet Singh (Arjun Rampal) sees in the victim a resemblance to Durga Rani Singh, a woman he had known long ago, and who is wanted by the cops for kidnapping and murder. He gets personally involved in the case — and there is a reason for that.

So is Vidya the same as Durga? Inderjeet gets to know Vidya’s unknown past from a diary that reveals a traumatic past both for her daughter and her. And he sets about investigating the case, independently almost of his department, using devious means to fool his superior (Kharaj Mukherjee), who is actually interested only in getting a promotion!

What happens next?

Using a well-known but not freely-spoken-about social evil as a base, the film builds up the suspense, like the mysterious woman who speaks with a Northeastern accent, and the story moves from Chandan Nagar to Kolkata and back, with Kalimpong in the flashback. The dialogues are basic and real, and the screenplay fast-paced, but the writer-trio (including Ghosh) take multiple liberties with logic and audience satisfaction.

Examples: There is no fleshing out of Durga’s flashback past, nothing about how a small girl moves from one home to another, not much about Vidya’s child marriage and how Inderjeet had come into her life then (yes, and that’s not a spoiler) and some smaller points like why the villains wait eight years to get after Durga. The climax looks a tad far-fetched, given how Inderjeet is shown behaving, and we think Inderjeet’s family could have been dispensed with as they have precisely no role in the plot progression.

Balan carries — yet again — a film on her shoulders, daring to look frumpy, ugly and very common. She is spot-on in her emotional expression, her tones and her body language. Rampal once again gets a chance to show that he is essentially a fine actor, and that none of his good performances were flukes. Khanna and later Sharma as Vidya’s daughter are good. Tota Roy Chowdhury (as Vidya’s boyfriend) and Manini Chadha as Inderjeet’s wife are alright, with Chadha’s lines being delivered in a shade peculiar manner, and Kharaj Mukherjee is amusing.

A surprise turn comes from Jugal Hansraj as a menacing baddie, and Amba Sanyal as his mother is very effective as well.

The music (very bad), background score and technical side are functional, and Ghosh directs well, but we have one small complaint against most current filmmakers that becomes a shade more intense with Ghosh: They should have a way of letting us know, after the film is over, which major roles were played by which artistes. As almost all of them are from Bengal, the audience across the country needs to know about these for-them-anonymous talents who act very well. We would have loved to know the names of the uncle, the two doctors, the mysterious evil woman, the mendicant and a couple more.

Rating: *** (That’s ** less than what we gave “Kahaani!”)

Boundscript Productions and Pen Audio presents “Kahaani 2—Durga Rani Singh”

Produced by: Sujoy Ghosh and Jayantilal Gada

Directed by: Sujoy Ghosh

Written by: Sujoy Ghosh, Suresh Nair and Ritesh Shah

Music: Clinton Cerejo

Starring: Vidya Balan, Arjun Rampal, Tota Roy Chowdhury, Naisha Khanna, Manini Chadha, Tunisha Sharma, Kharaj Mukherjee, Amba Sanyal, Jugal Hansraj and others

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