The story of Talaash begins with an auto crashing into the sea on a lonely stretch of Seaface Road. It had the appearance of an accident, but Mumbai Police Inspector Shekhawat (played by Aamir Khan) has some questions. First of all, the deceased was a young and popular movie star, Armaan Kapoor, who had no reason to be on this road at four in the morning.
We learn early on that the star gave his driver and his spotboy the rest of the night off after finishing his work on a movie at 2:20 AM.
Not too far from the scene of the accident was a red-light district with the standard assortment of lowlife criminals, drug peddlers, prostitutes, and thugs, or goons that keep things ‘orderly’. This red-light district, and Seaface Road were not in the direction Kapoor would have to take to get to his home.
When the car was winched out of the sea, the victim was still in the driver’s seat behind the wheel and wearing his seat belt.
Using that as a starting point, along with the reports from some homeless people in the area that said ‘That was the only car on the road. There was absolutely nothing on the road’. Shekhawat’s first question was – why was Kapoor in this area?
So the search for answers begins. In fact, ‘search’ or ‘quest’ is the meaning of the Hindi word ‘talaash‘.
Talaash has been called a psychological-suspense thriller, and it has been described as a neo-noir film. A noir film is most commonly called a film with dark interpretations of reality. Usually the setting is the criminal underworld, the characters are cynical, and the time frame is usually set in the 1940’s or early 1950’s. The whole point of a noir, is that it won’t be a pleasant walk in the park. A neo noir would be a film with the same characteristics but set in the contemporary era.
Khan’s Shekhawat is a troubled man. He and his wife Roshni, played by Rani Mukerji, are both having quite a difficult time coming to terms with the death of their son, an 8 year old boy. Shekhawat has become a workaholic. He cannot sleep, and he blames himself for the boy’s death. He says, It was not an accident, but rather it was negligence – on my part.
The boy’s death has not only put a strain on the marriage, but also the health of both husband and wife.
Director Reema Kagti, along with her screenwriter Zoya Akhtar have put together an intriguing film. The story proceeds slowly and we meet other characters like Shashi, a pimp, Tehmur who works as his go-for, and Rosie, a party-girl/prostitute played marvelously by Kareena Kapoor.
The review I did prior to this one, A Simple Life was a film directed by a woman.This film from India was not only directed by a woman but was also written by a woman. Okay, I’m not going to be ladling on heaps of praise for the film simply because women were at the helm, but I do find it interesting that Aamir Khan, known in Bollywood film circles as a perfectionist, not only starred in the film, but he also produced it. Meaning he had a strong say in the hiring of Reema Kagti, and just as likely, Khan bought Akhtar’s script.
However the film was far from perfect. Many of the characters are too one dimensional including the star himself. Khan’s role as Inspector Shekhawat called for him to be a tough cop, and a husband and parent who is still grieving over the loss of his son. But Shekhawat’s sole expression was to scowl and look intense. On very few occasions does he allow a smile to cross his face. And that’s all compounded by the size and darkness of his moustache which dominated his face.
Another problem I had was that while the mystery of the film is indeed a puzzle, the fates of some of the characters were so very predictable.
Finally, the film has too many coincidences. You won’t notice them at first, but then you do.
Kagti and Akhtar will toss some surprises at you, and while the puzzle and mystery of the accident is eventually resolved, you won’t be expecting how Shekhawat got his answers. The film’s tagline is The Answer Lies Within which has a good deal to do with everything we see and experience in life, as well as this film.
I liked the performances of four of the leads in this film: Aamir Khan as Shekhawat, and Rani Mukerji as his wife Roshni were both fine. Khan for his intensity, and Rani for playing something other than a woman defined by her beauty. In this film, Kareena Kapoor, as the prostitute, is simply superb. And watch for Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Tehmur, the go-for.
The camera work and location shooting were also excellent. Kagti handles the auto accident very well with some great angles. She also nails a superb on foot chase scene (with elements of the The French Connection – people boarding then stepping off a train) as well as through the teeming crowds in Mumbai’s Churchgate Station, a major rail-head.
I also thought the music was well done. In particular, the song “Laakh Duniya Kahe Tum Nahi Ho”.
My rating for the film is three point five out of five.