Kahaani 2: The Kahaani We Must All Pay Heed To

Posted: December 8, 2016
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Then there are some movies that you carry home long after they are over. For me, Kahaani 2 was one such movie which brought to light an issue so integral in our society, the mere thought of which makes us all cringe.

(Warning – spoilers ahead)

Vidya Balan’s presence on screen is powerful without seeming overbearing, and her role as the devoted single mother of a physically challenged girl in Kahaani 2 warms the heart. However, the movie doesn’t seem as simple as that and soon picks up without letting the viewer feel a lull in the pace.

The daughter’s kidnapping along with Balan’s horrific accident makes one wonder where the movie could really go from here.

Then come the twists and turns that Sujoy Ghosh, the director, is famous for. We travel back in time to when Balan worked in the admissions department of a school. The grey skies of Kalimpong, West Bengal set the tone for a sombre mood. Soon a young girl of 6 years enters the frame whom Balan tries to befriend. A few days later, the girl before leaving from school finally speaks to her and utters these words, “Woh mujhe sone nahin dete.” (They don’t let me sleep).

Fear grips the heart and for a moment I felt the air escape my lungs. The girl’s vacant and listless eyes remind Balan of her own past traumatic past. This is evident as we see her struggling to sustain a romantic relationship. Balan, unable to get the girl’s words out of her head decides to impersonate as her teacher and take home tuitions in order to get the girl to open up. She is soon horrified to discover that her suspicions are correct. It brings to the fore an issue that is so prevalent in our society and one that is carefully concealed from the world.

According to UNICEF, child sexual abuse is engaging a child in any sexual activity that he/she does not understand or cannot give informed consent for or is not physically, mentally or emotionally prepared for. Abuse can be conducted by an adult or another child who is developmentally superior to the victim. This includes using a child for pornography, sexual materials, prostitution and unlawful sexual practices.

We have a description so specific and yet, so many seem unclear on what counts as child sexual abuse. Inherently, all of us as human beings do know that it is indeed wrong. The young girl through paintings tries to explain what she is going through as well as through gestures and pointing to the body. This highlights the fact that a young child – boy or girl – cannot understand what has transpired.

An elite family in the movie shows the darkest side of human society; where a young man (the girl’s uncle) abuses her and shows a complete lack of remorse, to the point of being arrogant and threatening in his passive aggressive style of talking to Balan. He stops her at a market and says that he picked up on the fact that she too may have been abused as a child and that she has ruined the young girl’s life by bringing this out in the open. He smirks while enquiring if it doesn’t it impact one’s sex life as an adult.

Perhaps the most sickening scene in the movie which mirrors harsh reality is when the grandmother is in the hospital with the young girl and says that weren’t the toys and dresses enough to remain quiet? It is a horrifying moment when one realises that the grandmother knew all along that her son was sexually abusing the young girl and was in fact helping cover it up. It’s not a state of denial but of complete acceptance and agreement to such a heinous crime; that too as a woman, her guardian.

Being in a movie hall kept me contained, as I would’ve cried out in extreme anger and sadness when the grandmother tells Balan that if the girl had such a problem with it, why wouldn’t she complain herself? It is in fact the family that must teach children about good touch and bad touch.

How is a young child to know that the people they call family and trust would express so called ‘affection’ in this manner? It’s absurd to expect a child who is not yet familiar with his or her own body parts to understand which forms of physical touch are appropriate and which are just not.

The movie informs us of the following crucial facts:

  • Sexual abuse is not limited to any socio-economic bracket. It is unfortunately rampant across societal classes and when it comes to the elite, status and power helps them very well.
  • One should look out for warning signs in a child’s behaviour/communication/general demeanour. Decline in academic performance as highlighted in the movie is also a major warning sign. Lack of sleep, withdrawal, fear of certain things – people, places, activities; poor social skills, feeling shameful or guilty are further signs to watch out for.
  • Victims carry guilt for years which is further coupled with the abuser shaming the victim and making them believe they brought it onto themselves. In the movie, Balan has a physical struggle with the grandmother, forcing her to speak aloud to the young girl and tell her that it is not her fault. The young girl feels that she must ‘fix’ this problem and feels she can do so by not living anymore. The burden of this responsibility – of making things right – also falls on the victim’s shoulders.
  • Teaching children about good touch vs bad touch is the role of family members. Not doing so carries the danger that a child would be unable to understand what forms of physical contact are abuse.
  • As depicted by Balan, sexual abuse does not only affect the individual sexually, but mentally and emotionally as well. It causes one to have difficulty in forming relationships and developing trust. One may be wary of people across their life and remain guarded due to years of shame and guilt.
  • The movie brought out something that one would not pay heed to when talking of such crimes – the role of women. Yes, the abuser was a male but what is even more difficult to digest is the role of two women who show a complete lack of sensitivity and morality when it comes to children. The grandmother who couldn’t care about the girl and was willing to let her son abuse her for his own sick desires. The female cop who wasn’t concerned about a child as a victim of abuse as long as she was paid to cover up the matter or even kill the girl. Such women allow the men in their family to indulge in such acts towards the children. What right do they have to call themselves parents, guardians or even human beings? Women need to call for a change within their families before asking for change in society. After all we make the society what it is.

The courage and devotion of a woman who adopts the role of a parent tells us why love, empathy and humanity are what makes one a parent and not just biological procreation. The need to protect children must be inherent or even inculcated but it surely cannot and should not be absent.

We must wake up to the crimes that occur within homes and the people such incidents create, before we look to changing the world. And as women we carry the power to change – to teach our sons and daughters to respect one another and one’s personal rights.

Its ‘awkward’ when we hear Vidya telling the grandmother, on screen, that how is the girl to know that her uncle’s body parts are not toys if he is engaging her in such acts? But we have to get over our discomfort with such issues and conversations and realize that the trauma and pain that come about through such episodes are far worse than any anxiety or uneasiness one can possibly feel.

He or she is just a child after all. Is this the world we brought them into?

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Counselling Psychologist and Educator by vocation. Multitask-er, wanderer, adrenaline junkie & life enthusiast. True loves -

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4 Comments


  1. Very well written. In many places, be it our country or elsewhere, the men are not questioned and it’s in fact the wrongdoing man himself takes it upon him to question the integrity of women in their family or outside family. It is happening because WE have ALLOWED it to happen.
    As you have rightly said let us start from the home and not feel the burden of family name and stigma. We can surely bring change this way.

    • Exactly Chintu! You have rightly pointed out – WE have allowed it to happen! But we can also stop allowing it to happen and that is when change will begin. It is often a difficult job to expose a member of the family but it has to be done for our own good, the greater good of those abused and for our own conscience to be at peace.

    • Excellent post and brilliant review! I haven’t seen the movie but will now go to watch it after reading your review. Like you rightly point out this is a dark and dangerous reality that we as a society keep trying to pretend doesn’t exist for some false sense of ‘honour’ and pride about our ideal traditional families with ideal traditional values!! As a medical professional and psychologist you have astutely and precisely stated the depth and magnitude of this problem and enlightened us even more on what we must take away from this movie. Thank You!

    • Wanderlust

      Thank you for reading and sharing your point of view 🙂

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