Kaaneen – A Secret Search released on March 22 is director Monjul Baruah’s second theatrical release after 2017’s Antareen-Quest for Sanctuary and surprisingly both the films are based on novels by eminent litterateur Rita Chowdhury. The similarities also extend to the protagonists who are women, torn apart by their families, and are in search of a missing piece of their life.
Antareen’s Torali is in search for her mother, some dignity and a few words of appreciation from her father. On the other hand in Kaaneen, Mandira has love and respect in abundance but the search for her first born takes her against everything.
Kaaneen – A Secret Search is the story of a Mandira, wife of IGP Abhijit Baruah (played by Baharul Islam) and a proud mother of two bright young minds – Abhi and Rashmi. The archetypal wife of a police officer, Mandira leads a quintessential lifestyle attending parties and socializing and at the same time is also a strict and caring mother. She happily carries on an imposed identity (wife of an officer) and has never asked for more. Abhijit as a husband is kind, understands his wife, respects her and is an equally concerned father. He is also known for his values, position in society and is respected by all.
Talented and passionate about their studies, Abhi and Rashmi makes this family complete. But very soon the life of Mandira turns around when she comes across an abandoned newborn baby on the roadside.
Monjul Baruah handles his women characters with great care and affection. Sourcing their life, lifestyles and tragedies from the existing works, he shapes up their appearance and journey for the screen and the actors portraying these roles bring Baruah’s vision to life.
Urmila Mahanta (who played Torali in Antareen) gave an emotionally charged performance and there is no false note in Jahanara Begum as Mandira either but somewhere within the movie, the helplessness of her situation disappears. The reason is the character’s empowerment in unprecedented terms. With a husband that probably trusts her more than himself, having more than enough to spend at her disposal and the hurdles in between which aren’t challenges in real terms, the immediate sense of urgency that the title boast off (…A Secret Search) is lost. A search to track down an illegitimate child is evident from the title itself, but Kaaneen nevertheless retains a part of the tension when the pressure shifts to how this child will be introduced to her family or how they will take it when introduced or will the society accept Mandira embracing a deep dark truth that was carefully hidden away to protect her future? Monjul Baruah scores here. Kaaneen sustains and intensifies that clammy, anxious feeling without fail. The shocking and tragic back-story also helps the tension to mount and the underlying reality of such occurrence will haunt viewers for long.
Kaaneen is also partly about the lives surviving in the ghettos shedding light on some unpleasant realities of the society. With a buried past of illegitimate affair and its consequences speaking for itself, Mandira, as she tries to seek the whereabouts of her firstborn, gets a tour of a world that exists in the shadows of her sunny, stable reality. However, Kaaneen also underperforms on another front, i.e., Mandira’s weak emotional link between her children Abhi and Rashmi. The characters offer very less contribution to the conflict of the movie apart from their existence. They are just limited to as being reminders that Mandira has two children waiting for her back home. Rashmi (played by Kasvi Sarma) is brought into the context as Mandira is worried about her making the same mistake as hers but the character of Abhi (played by Rahul Gautam Sarma) is left unexplored much in relation to Mandira.
Apart from the heightening tension Kaaneen also has emotional depths to spare and director Monjul Baruah perfectly blends both these aspects together. While the other actors get their moments, the movie is a Jahanara Begum and Partha Hazarika show, and both are more than up to the task. Jahanara Begum’s performance brings out the uneasiness of her stylish and attractive life and the painful and agonizing depths of her character. Partha Hazarika gives a performance which is tough and sturdy and fulfills the demands of his character, Rajib, who never lets remorse, grief and sentiments come in his way. The cinematography by Nahid Ahmed captures some beautiful frames, the noteworthy being the scene where Mandira sits facing the river as stormy clouds fills the sky above. But does Mandira succeed in her search for her beloved oldest child without endangering or alienating the rest of the family? Kaaneen has dealt with this question in an interesting way. The conclusion may not resolve to every viewer’s liking but that’s what makes Kaaneen – A Secret Search different from the rest.
Produced by Gopendra Mohan Das, the rest of the cast of the movie includes Dhananjay Debnath, Joly Bhattacharya, Purnima Pathak Saikia, Mintu Baruah, etc. The film is edited by Twenchang and the music is directed by Tarali Sarma with production design by Himen Bora and art direction by Rama Roy. The costume design and makeup is credited to Gita Rani Goswami and Ashitav Baruah respectively. Kaaneen – A Secret Search also won the Silver Camera Award at the 2nd Guwahati International Film Festival 2018.