Talaash: A Review
Talaash – Dir: Reema Kagti; *ing: Aamir Khan, Rani Mukerji, Kareena Kapoor, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Sheeba Chaddha, Shernaz Patel
Dude, where’s my plot?
If you happen to run into M. Night Shyamalan somewhere, please do give him a good smack upside the head. Ever since his 1999 monster smash The Sixth Sense, twist endings of the sinister kind have become the go-to gimmick for films whose plots threaten to limp towards banality. A device that was clever (in a smug sort of way) thirteen years ago, has become a lazy copout now, resorted to by Shyamalan himself in just about every film he’s made subsequently, to astonishingly diminishing returns. One supposes it was inevitable that Hindi films would also latch onto this last-minute-switcheroo nonsense to shore up otherwise weak narratives, and we’ve had a number of examples that have darkened many a screen in the past few years with this sort of desperate silliness. An exception was Sujoy Ghosh’s Vidya Balan starrer Kahaani which not only used the twist in a rather more intelligent fashion, but also, more importantly, had enough meat on its bones so that the climax turnaround wasn’t all it was relying on to keep the audience involved.
Which is exactly the point on which the Reema Kagti-Zoya Akhtar penned Talaash completely jumps the shark, depending on its ‘surprise’ denouement to lift the rest of it in our estimation as a gripping, thrilling, moving yarn. Unfortunately, a shock ending does not a great movie make, a truth glaringly felt as Talaash winds down to its ho-hum conclusion, for the preceding colour-by-numbers plot events command little emotional or intellectual investment. Khan plays brooding police inspector Surjan Sekhawat, a man haunted by what he perceives was his role in the death of his young son. He and his grieving wife Roshni (Mukerji) share the same space but few words. When a big Bollywood star dies a mysterious death and Surjan is put in charge of the investigation, it leads the cop down a convoluted path of seemingly unconnected events concerning Mumbai’s prostitution rings. This in turn brings him into close quarters with Rosie (Kapoor), a beguiling hooker with a secret or two of her own who wants to help solve the case. While Surjan finds himself drawn to Rosie, Roshni seeks solace in a psychic (Patel) who claims to be communicating with the deceased boy.
One of the problems here is that Talaash has a considerable identity crisis going on. It probably wants to be a rumination on the nature of grief, guilt and loss, but also aims to weave an engrossing suspense thriller out of the same material. It certainly isn’t an impossibility, having been done before, perhaps most notably in Nicholas Roeg’s masterful 1973 chiller Don’t Look Now. But Talaash is trying to make wine out of lemons; its characters are too opaque to provide any meaningful emotional traction, while the mystery element is too watered down to build up any real momentum. The film seems to be a mood piece for the sake of being a mood piece and it meanders aimlessly for a long while before pulling a dead rabbit out of its hat to dazzle us, by which time it’s much too little, much too late. Interestingly enough, there is a whole other film based around two minor characters hiding in the folds of the script, which is actually far more intriguing than the main plot. Tehmur (Siddiqui, in a brilliantly understated performance) a small-time errand boy for the underworld, attempts to milk the situation for his own benefit and for that of his sad-eyed paramour, Nirmala (Chaddha – sympathetic without being cloying), a prostitute well past her prime. Now there’s a story I’d definitely pay to see.
Cult: Woh Kaun Thi? (1964) – This seminal ‘mystery woman-in-white’ Hindi suspense drama, directed by Raj Khosla, spawned a haunting song score by Madan Mohan.
Current: Heroine – Madhur Bhandarkar’s ‘exposé’ on the underbelly of the Hindi Film industry, starring Kareena Kapoor in the title role, is too boring to be considered for the ‘so bad it’s good’ category.
Coming Attraction: Race 2 (2013) – If the first one is anything to go by, the sequel will have more mind-numbing twists than a bowl of noodles.