There are certain elements of filmmaking you know Excel Entertainment and Aamir Khan Productions will get right with their eyes closed. So yes, the technicalities of the film get the thumbs up – be it the well mounted production design (even if the sleazy underbelly of Mumbai is obviously ‘stylized’), the wonderful atmospheric cinematography, or even the apt musical score. But at the end of it all, Talaash proves yet again that it is content that really makes the film and it is here where the film falls short.
To be fair to Talaash, directed by Reema Kagti, its narrative flow has much more going for it than the typical Bollywood film. One has to commend writers Zoya Akhtar and Kagti for treating the film much more on a psychological level rather than take the easy way out by depending on thrills and action set pieces. The ‘search’ is metamorphical in more ways than one as it is not just the search for the killer. All the characters have a deeper search within themselves for some sort of salvation. In fact, there is very little action in the film and it moves at a languid enough pace deliberately devoid of unnecessary items for us to move along with and get close to the characters. In that, it succeeds somewhat. And, when the odd action sequence does occur – like the chase sequence with Nawazuddin – it is handled nicely. The writers have created fleshed out characters (most of them) with their flaws, humanised them and given them a layering we rarely see in our films with a maturely restrained approach to the scenes.
But all the good work is badly let down by the basic story – having shades of Don’t Look Now (1973) – and the central elements the film plays with. The hardboiled cop investigating the case going through a troubled phase in his marriage on the personal side while dealing with the hooker holding the key to the entire mystery in his professional one is right up cliched Hollywood territory and has been badgered to death even in their B and C thrillers. It also doesn’t help that the mystery track here is also just about OK enough and it’s final revelation just lame, made even worse by being over explanatory. Further, many of the plot’s revelations can be seen coming much, much earlier especially for who-dun-it buffs. So while the suspense bits don’t hold up well especially in the second half, of the inter-personal relationships, while Aamir and Rani’s scenes are relatively well worked out, his scenes with Kareena are not and it has to said, they also contain some real corny dialogue. Ultimately, you feel Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar have bitten off more than they chew and the blend of suspense, pyschological drama and the supernatural just does not come together coherently to end on a satisfying note.
The performances are by and large spot on. Aamir Khan is in fine enough form as the weary cop closing himself from those around him and battling his inner demons following the death of his 8-year old son in an accident he blames himself for. There’s a wonderful scene, where, as he recalls the events of his son’s death, he replays the scene in various ways wherein he imagines what might have happened had he reacted differently in the situation. By and large, Aamir gives a subtle, nuanced performance but his cathartic breakdown in the end is far from convincing as he is unable to let go totally from within and his crying even had many people in the hall cruelly guffawing. Rani Mukherji as the wife struggling to get back to some semblance of a normal life is excellent as always and Nawazuddin Siddiqui is brilliant as the lame odd job man in the red-light area. Sheeba Chadda as the object of his affections – the ageing whore – is reliably good and mention must be also made of Raj Kumar Yadav playing Aamir’s junior, working on the case alongside him. The big no-no is Kareena Kapoor. She’s just not convincing enough as the call girl – sticking out amongst the other hookers like a sore thumb, ever the star amongst the junior artistes. Further, the effort in the performance shows at every level and as in practically all her films, she finally plays just Kareena.
In the final analysis, the film and your take on it depends on what one makes of the ‘big twist’ towards the end. Sufficient to say it is audacious and if you buy it, it could elevate the film further for you leaving you on a crackerjack of a high but if you don’t (and I didn’t), then the twist and the subsequent clumsy scenes make the entire film quite silly and stupid in retrospect. And that then is the feeling I left the theatre with.
Hindi, Drama, Thriller, Color