Dissecting Kahaani – Script vs Film (plot and time)

Posted: April 4, 2013 by moifightclub in bollywood, cinema, Screenwriting, Scripts, Story / Plot / Synopsis, writing
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Thanks to filmmaker Sujoy Ghosh, we had put out the script of Kahaani here. And here’s an interesting post by one of our readers Deepanjali B Sarkar where she compares the script with the film. And also keeps a check on the timeline – what happens where, at what time, and for how long. Over to her.



I’ve now seen Kahaani several times, the last time with the script in hand, provided by this blog. Here are some rapid notes I made – mainly on the pacing and plot points (which is what makes it such a gripping film). Sharing it – in case others find it useful. Have listed the run time at which each plot point takes place.

So here goes

  • Hook – introduced within 10  mins: taxi driver says it’s for the first time that he has driven someone to the police station straight from the airport. Add to that – that she is pregnant.
  • Dramatic premise – husband missing: approx. 15.45 mins. Vidya files missing complaint in Kalighat police station. This sequence is packed with information (set up/clues) that will come into critical use as the thriller unfolds (pay off):
    • Husband worked in National Data Centre. Later we get to know the main suspect Milan Damji is an employee of National Data Centre, as is Shridhar, the IT head who assigns Bob Biswas, the hired assassin, his targets.
    • Vidya is a firewall expert. Crucial in her gaining access to IT head’s system, which leads them to IB head, Bhaskaran.
    • Vidya has a dizzy spell when asked to sign the missing person report. Pay off – she never left behind any fingerprints.
  • First red herring: Mona Lisa Hotel. Approx 20 mins.

By the way – had a question here. Did her husband actually stay here? Or how did she know of the decorative piece, the peacock? If he didn’t why this hotel in particular? Because it didn’t keep any records of its guests?

  • Second red herring: Arnav’s uncle’s house. 31 mins
  • Third red herring: Arnav’s school. 31.30 mins
  • Fourth red herring: Kolkata immigration
  • First clue! Milan Damji; Second clue – Bombay blood group. When Vidya meets Agnes Demelo in Mocambo. 35 mins
  • Bob the Killer introduced. 35.58 mins
  • First murder – Agnes Demelo. 37.29 mins
  • Khan – crucial link in plot – introduced. Being from the IB, he will lead Vidya to _____. 38.24 mins. 40 mins
  • Capt. Bajpayee introduced. The Kahaani actually starts with him training three agents. Introduced at 40.07 mins
  • Plot thickens! Vidya remembers that Khan refers to Damji by first name. So he must be familiar with him though he claims not to know him. 44.22 mins
  • Khan inducts Rana into the case (audience doesn’t know of it as yet)
  • Bob’s 2nd assignment: Retrieve Milan Damji’s file. 49.52 mins
  • Third clue! Identity of Milan Damji – from old records of National Data Centre. 50.23 mins
  • Pre-interval climax! Vidya pushed into metro tracks. 55.55 mins
  • NOW – Backstory. 57.38 mins

But why will Bhaskaran approach Bajpayee when he himself is the kingpin of the entire operation?

  • Vidya voices audience’s doubts. Missing from script. (1) Arnab has deserted her (2) Arnab and Milan are one and the same (3) Arnab has been targeted because he looks like Milan Damji.
  • Turning point: Jis din Milan mil jayega, us din, Arnab mil jayega. So hunt on for Milan Damji. No longer for Arnab.  59.07
  • Transition scene: Missing in script. Lovely touch of the playful side of Vidya. The two are travelling in a tram, she accidentally kicks Rana. He touches his forehead (pranam). She is intrigued and playfully kicks him again…and again!
  • Fourth clue! Milan Damji’s house – tea glasses from tea stall outside. Boy at tea stall remembers man with brass corners briefcase. This is the FINAL LINK to Bhaskaran. 1.03 hrs
  • Clue – follow up- Bombay blood required by Milan Damji when he was admitted in Ekbalpur Nursing Home.
  • No records of Milan Damji in Ekbalpur Nursing Home. Next —> Police Informer
  • Kumartuli – locate police informer. Nice touch – Vidya slips, Rana holds her hand. 1.06 mins
  • Police informer – Pal asked to locate who needed Bombay Blood in Ekbalpur Nursing home and why. Pal refuses to help. Vidya pleads, appealing on behalf of her unborn child. Vital leads acquired only because she is a helpless pregnant woman. Police wouldn’t have been able to extract the information. 1.07 hrs
  • Police informer Pal talks of shoot-out. Next clue – doctor who treated Milan Damji. Bob receives next job – kill Doctor Ganguli. 1.09 hrs
  • Vidya finds details about the shoot-out from Kalighat police station computer records

Rana’s attraction to Vidya grows (proximity as she bends over him to look at computer records)

  • Scene 142: Set up that will lead to the Denouement —> Vidya cleans table. Cleans it off her finger prints
  • Scene 143 – 145: Shoot out explanation by Rana. National Data Centre provides IB agents with cover/double identities
  • Scene 146 – 147: Poltu points out man with Briefcase -> Shridhar. 1.14 hrs
  • Scene 148: Bob’s next job -> Vidya. Shridhar, the Chief Technology Officer of Data Centre scans Vidya’s photo and MMS’ it to Bob
  • Scene 149: Nice touch. Bob is shining his nails when he gets his next job. He looks exasperated and the way he says to rickshaw valla – turn around, it looks as if he’s been given an errand to run to the fish market before leaving for office!
  • Scene 150 – 151: Dramatic scene. Chase! Bob chases Vidya. Kills innocent passerby. Rana chases Bob. Bob is run over by a truck. 1.16 hrs
  • Scene 154: Track Sridhar, handler of Bob/CTO of Data Centre. 1.19 hrs
  • Scene 155:   IP address of sender of MMS to Bob
  • Scene 158:  Sridhar signs out. Set up: peon carries three glasses; visitor’s book is out
  • Scene 162: Sridhar figures out his computer is being hacked. 1.23 hrs
  • Scene 163 – 166: Sridhar runs to his chamber. 1.25 hrs
  • Scene 167 – 168: Shridhar chases Vidya. Fight between Rana and Shridhar. Vidya kills Shridhar.
  • Scene 169: Khan arrives on scene. Says he wanted Shridhar alive to lead them onto Damji.
  • Scene 170: False denouement: Khan tells Vidya she had been used as bait to lead them onto Damji because no one suspects a pregnant woman. TURNING POINT: Khan asks Vidya to hack into Sridhar’s computer to find out who is the kingpin of the entire plot. 1.28 hrs
  • Scene 171: Not present in script. Panchami-idols come at night. Vidya watches a Durga idol. Charulata shot: from window to next window she follows the idol atop a truck. Ekla chalo re song plays in the background. She is readying herself for the final slaying of the demon – Milan Damji. Scene ends with close up of Durga’s lion on beheaded head of Asura Mahishasura and Goddess being bedecked with jewellery. She is being empowered.
  • Montage: not present in script. Vidya trying to hack into Sridhar’s computer to get info about kingpin; sashthi, the first day of Durga puja; women in white and red saris; Vidya cleaning her room meticulously; Vidya calling Bishnu for hot water; Puja in full swing – aarti in evening, dhunuchi dance; Vidya looking at parents with their kids at puja pandals; 1.32 hrs
  • FINAL CLUE! Vidya finds a code in Sridhar’s computer she can’t decipher. Rana realises it might be a phone number. Turns out to be Bhaskaran’s old number. Khan asks Vidya to call Bhaskaran – rest in script.
  • Scene ends with call from Milan Damji. Final link in the chain. (Nice touch – Khan forced to plead with Vidya “please help me”)
  • Pal, the informer warns Rana that Damji is back in the city and will kill Vidya. (didn’t see the point of this bit of information. Audience knows Vidya is in mortal danger). 1.38 hrs
  • “Upping the ante” as they say! Rana begs Khan to call off operation as Vidya’s life is in danger. Khan locks him up. Mocks him – don’t love the wrong person. 1.39 hrs.
  • Pre-climax: Vidya wears red-white sari. She breaks down. 1.40 hrs. Bishu quietly leaves his transistor behind for Vidya
  • Countdown to denouement: Rana escapes (OC helps him). Rushes to Mona Lisa hotel. Told Vidya has checked out. Notices something about Bishu (we still don’t know what)
  • Montage of Durga Puja at Triangular Park. POV of Vidya as she looks at the sea of faces around her trying to guess who might be Milan Damji
  • Shindoor khela: set up for Vidya’s final escape – climax
  • Scene 183 – 185: Milan Damji – jo ab take k kahaani tha. CLIMAX – Milan is killed by Vidya

•    Scene 187: 3 mins –    Denouement 1.50 hrs: Arnab’s school is actually Bishnu’s school; she used to regularly dust her room; She never signed – first time at police station when she was asked to sign missing report, she fainted; at Mona Lisa hotel she refused to sign because register was tattered; She killed Sriharan before IB could get to him; She knew as Khan himself would say, no one would suspect a pregnant woman searching for her missing husband

• Scene 190: Flashbacks. Pyrrhic victory: Vidya realises she had truly started believing she was pregnant and that she would find her husband. 1.53 hrs

• Scenes 191 – 193: Bhaskaran arrested. 1.56 hrs

  • Voice over – Goddess Durga comes to vanquish evil and then leaves; Candlelight remembrances


•  Scenes 84 – 87: Deleted

– Vidya meets Rana at his home. This scene is replaced by a scene in front of Kalighat Police station. Vidya sees women in red border sarees going to Kalighat temple and remembers her conversation with Arnab.

– The change of location works – more colour. Also, home would have been too intimate. Would have struck a wrong note – why should Vidya visit him at his home?

IMPORTANT: missing from script – Rana says Milan Damji does not exist. He is just a kahaani

And some additional notes I made

  1. The plot moves because Vidya is pregnant – leading to disclosures. OC says husband got her pregnant and is absconding. IB – Khan reiterates the same. Emphasis on her as a victim of a domestic case. No one takes her missing file report seriously. Rana is of course chivalrous and concerned.
  2. Fun side of Vidya, making her endearing. Our empathy increases: Teases Bishnu about his radio; Gentle with Poltu; Mocks Rana. About his name. Mocks him when she makes him pick locks, twice (Data Centre Office; Damji’s house); Kicks him in tram.
  3. Rana’s growing attraction towards Vidya. Very economically dealt with. No dialogues: Concerned. Caring. Always worried she might hurt herself as she bends down, climbs stairs. Holds her hand. Intrigued, charmed by her playful side when she deliberately kicks him in the tram. Admires her tenacity. Admires her knack with children. Glowingly praises her maternal instinct.  When Vidya bends over him as she checks computer records – he is acutely conscious of his attraction towards her. When Vidya gets to know from Khan that she is being used as a bait she is appalled. Asks – her life, her child’s life was at threat. Immediately Rana says nothing would have happened to her – because he had taken up the case solely to ensure she was safe. Khan gives an amused, meaningful glance at Rana. He knows Rana has fallen for Vidya. Gifts her a sari, on behalf of Arnab. Genuinely cares for her.
  4. Detailing in sets:  (a) Calender of Sri Ramkrishna in Kalighat Police station (b) Trinamool Congress emblems on walls of North Kolkata when Vidya goes to locate Milan Damji’s house (c) Aalna or clothes stand typical of a Bengali house in hotel room
  5. RD Burman influence: Songs being played on radio in several street sequences; Song played on car radio when Sridhar realises his computer is being backed is Lekar hum deewana dil.

(For more posts by Deepanjali, you can check her blog here)

  1. nagrathnam says:

    Bowing down in obeisance

  2. dr vinod gondalia says:

    deepanjali, excellent dissection of the screenplay and the movie.You should write screenplays yourself.contact me

  3. Deepanjali B Sarkar says:

    Thanks Dr Gondalia🙂

  4. throughmysenses says:

    Nice one,would have liked more if u had tred to bring out the Flaws in the Script as well.

    • Deepanjali B Sarkar says:

      throughmysenses – have pointed out some inconsistencies like why did Bhaskaran approach Bajpayee when he himself was the kingpin of the entire operation. I haven’t listed them separately, so you probably overlooked them.

  5. sujoy says:

    deepanjali.. to answer your question: no the husband did not stay there. hence the confused manager. he could not understand.. bcos.. when she called the guesthouse. he told her no. yet she came and shouted at him!! but she did her homework and knew it was an unknown guest house, and no records and she khew about the peacock through homework.

  6. Johnie says:

    But who was Vidya’s husband really? From all the flashbacks, it seemed like he was a lookalike of Milan Damji…. what was the connection between him and Arnab? Or like Milan Damji, he too was just a Kahaani? Or both the characters were played by the same person to keep the story moving and intriguing? Too much of a coincidence I’d say… Kumbh ke mele mein bichede hue do bhai?? And the usual errors of Bhaskar with capt who’s supposed to be Vidya’s Father in Law and yet Bhaskar is not aware of her… But yes, overall, the film was too good and I liked the way Deepanjali dissected the script. Good work.

    • Ram says:

      Johnie, think you have to watch the movie again. There was no Arnab, he was a kahaani to unearth Milan Damji and his cohorts. Vidya’s husband was the IB officer who dies in the first train scene.

    • Deepanjali B Sarkar says:

      And to add to Ram’s comment, Captain Bajpayee wasn’t Vidya’s father-in-law. Why did you think he was?

  7. Deepanjal ji, Great to read. superb.

  8. Deepanjali B Sarkar says:

    Thanks all for the appreciation🙂

  9. dafreaking says:


    Any particular reason why you have mentioned the “art detailing”, that too of just her room?

  10. arunprakash says:

    Look forward to more such script dissections….would help a lot of budding screenwriters!

  11. Seriously.. there must be better films to dissect and analyse.. I don’t even want to go those heavily discussed flashback scenes..
    The writing and direction of Kahaani falls flat right in the opening sequence..

    At first, we are shown a lab-rat. A masked man drops a ball like thing into the cage. It breaks and some chemical gas is released and the rats die. – Okay (though we are subjected to 322 cuts until this point.)

    CUT TO: ‘shaky cam’ shots of the ‘busy’ city.

    Metro station/train: A schoolboy is clutching to his schoolbag. he is tensed and clutching the bag so tight. Since we just saw what happened to the lab-rats, the boy and this bag becomes some sort of ‘time bomb’. Okay. So, he’s in a crowd. But WE don’t know them. –> add various random cuts of people’s faces and general ‘day-to-day conversations’..

    Now, the scene has to move forward.. introduce a gang of boys, who, to the screenwriter’s ease becomes the ‘bullies’. (When watching the scene, I remember wondering what things the terrorists might have gone through to threaten/convince an ordinary school boy to carry a bio weapon in his school bag) And shots of a man searching for something through the train, presumably the bio-weapon, are shown. He kind of reflects our fear. – Okay..

    At this point, we are shown two women arguing/searching for a baby’s milk-bottle. One of them has forgotten where she had kept it. They find the bottle and at the same time, the school boys gang manages to reveal that it’s just some harmless object in our boy’s bag. At the same time, the bottle breaks and gas leaks and.. CUT TO: everyone is dead.

    Is this clever resolution of tension in any way? This is outright cheating. They didn’t show the milk-bottle until the last minute.. They could have kept the bomb anywhere in the train and cut to it detonating. Would have had the same effect. I could forgive the cliches as long as they kept me engaged in the scene. This is just a simple example. There are so many such cop outs in this film. And not to mention the headache inducing direction/editing..

    This film or script is totally not worthy of the awards and the discussion. Too much of reverse engineering, and for what? To just give a ‘gotcha’ in the end.

    I just couldn’t bear to see so much of people’s effort wasted for this film. Look forward to see more dissections/analysis of worthy films/scripts..

  12. Rahul Dave says:

    detailed work….nicely done….superb……

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