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Kahaani 2 quick review: Vidya Balan is riveting in thriller that’s let down by its second half

Except for carrying forward the name of a character — ‘Vidya’ — for the first half of the movie, Sujoy Ghosh’s Kahaani 2 (also known as Kahaani 2: Durga Rani Singh) starring Vidya Balan and Arjun Rampal, is an entirely different movie from its predecessor in the franchise. The plot is new, so are the characters.

Vidya Balan in 'Kahaani 2: Durga Rani Singh'

Kahaani 2 is set in Kolkata and is the story of Durga Rani Singh, played by Vidya Balan, who has been accused of kidnapping a 6-year-old called Mili, and murdering her grandmother. There is a also a parallel life she leads as Vidya Sinha, who has a daughter named Mili. Confusing enough? You will have to watch the movie to find out how this plot plays out.

The movie revolves around child sexual abuse. The first half of the movie gives you all the possible thrills and chills as Durga Rani Singh sets out in a mission to rescue a child from a possible abuser.

This is one of those movies for which the trailer is a curse. Two of the most startling moments in the film lose all their shock factor if you’ve already watched the trailer, and that’s sad.

The movie also has Inspector Inderjit, played by Arjun Rampal. ‘Hot’, I’m sure is the correct terminology here. He is entirely convincing as an inspector who has been transferred to a small town and is waiting for a promotion so that he along with his family could shift back to the city.

The first half is gripping, and 100 percent entertaining. But the second half turns out to be slightly off track. While Sujoy Ghosh with his magical attention to detail has scripted out what was meant to be an amazing narrative, the second half drags, and is not as entertaining. The director also flavours the second half with subtle humour in the midst of intense moments. While I was with a theatreful of people laughing along at those subtleties, I felt like it might be taking the seriousness away from the issue of child sexual abuse. And the way CSA is dealt with in the movie is good, but not moving enough perhaps.

Powerful, strong and riveting, Vidya Balan gives a performance which is definitely worth watching multiple times. Arjun Rampal puts up a great show as well. The two childactors who play the character Mili are spot on. While the performances take Kahaani 2 a notch higher, a not-so-thoroughly thought out second half pulls it down.

Befikre quick movie review: Ranveer Singh, Vaani Kapoor shine in Aditya Chopra’s sweet rom-com

Befikre steers far away from a typical Yash Raj Films love story and deals with both the past and the present of its protagonists.

The past:

Dharam — played by an ebullient Ranveer Singh — is a stand-up comedian from Delhi. Dharam moves to Paris, the city of love and creativity and artistic endeavour, to perform at a bar that’s called Delhi Belly.

Shyra — the very photogenic Vaani Kapoor — works in Paris as a tourist guide. She was born to Indian parents, but her character is depicted as being very French.

Vaani Kapoor and Ranveer Singh in a still from 'Befikre'

Dharam meets Shyra at a party: He’s desperately trying to get a girl to go home with him for the night; she dares him to meet a challenge; he wins [cue Hindi song playing at a French nightclub] and they go home to enjoy a wild romp.

They clearly have the kind of chemistry that’s the stuff of romcom lore, but Shyra — in a reversal of the wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am trope, tells Dharam that she’s not interested in getting serious with him since she’s just been through a break-up. Fine, sex with no-strings-attached it is then.

So far, so good.

Of course, once is not enough and we see Dharam and Shyra embark on a wildly uninhibited relationship. As a throwback to their first meeting, Shyra keeps setting Dharam new dares and challenges. He fulfills them, and their spicy, somewhat kinky relationship moves forward. Finally, they decide that to live in together.

Cut to a different time, and we see Dharam and Shyra have come some distance from those first heady, explosive days. Now they’re in the apartment they share, hurling abuses at each other — the argument takes an ugly turn and they decide to part ways.

The present:

Can two individuals who’ve shared a past navigate new ground as friends? This is what Dharam and Shyra must confront in their present.

That they get to do this against the scenic backdrop of Paris is a huge bonus. Aditya Chopra has chosen some breathtaking settings as the location for his latest film, and as an viewer, one is glad for that.

What about the actors though? Do they match up to Paris?

Ranveer Singh makes for a perfect Dharam. He’s the quintessential Delhi brat who adapts quickly to life in Paris, and proves yet again why he’s considered among the most versatile actors of his generation. Vaani has a job keeping up, but is able to deliver what the role requires. Most of the first half is given over to visuals of the couple making out. (We’re not complaining.)

It helps that Befikre keeps things breezy and light during the first half. Fun and humour are sprinkled liberally throughout the first half and you’re ensured a feel-good time.

But does it also feel — well, frivolous?

Is there more to this film than its good looks?

Ranveer plays Dharam, while Vaani Kapoor is Shyra in Befikre'

***

Post-interval, we’re back in our seats, and ready to watch more of Dharam and Shyra’s adventures unfold. And boy! do they not disappoint.

Now far too many films of late have fallen prey to ‘the curse of the second half’. Everything’s hunky dory in the first, but after the interval, boom! the film loses its plot.

Surprise, surprise — Befikre does not suffer from this fate.

In fact, its second act lifts Befikre to a more beautiful level.

What do Dharam and Shyra get up to in the second half? We left them, dealing with a break-up, and trying to be ‘just friends’. The plot thickens when each of them gets into new romantic relationships. We can’t give more away other than saying, the duo has a lot to deal with.

[Spoiler alert] There’s an exceptional scene, set on a yacht where Ranveer Singh goes completely ‘befikre‘ and bares his derriere. And we’ll only say this: It is a sight to behold.

Does Befikre have a conventional happy ending? You’ll have to see the film to find out.

Does it any point seem clichéd? Yes, Dharam and Shyra’s journey, while fun, is hardly groundbreaking. But perhaps what works for Befikre, is that it does not try to be groundbreaking. Aditya Chopra’s first directorial venture in eight years plays to its strengths: It’s entertaining, beautiful and light.

When the Befikre trailer released, there were doubts over whether or not the film had more to it than seen in these promos. To be honest, there’s isn’t much else to the story beyond what’s seen in those trailers. But that’s not disappointing at all.

At a little over two hours, Befikre is short, sweet and a bonafide Bollywood rom-com.