Talaash (2012): India filmmaker Reema Kagti's flawed but gripping suspense thriller with a psychological bent

Aamir and Nawazuddin shine in police procedural

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Aamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Rani Mukerji in Talaash, Directed by Reema Kagti
Talaash (2012)- By Reema Kagti
Our Rating: 7.0
IMDb Ratings: 7.5
Genre: Thriller
CastAamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Rani Mukerji
Country: India
Runtime: 134 min

Summary: A cop, investigating the mysterious death of a filmstar, meets a sex-worker, while he faces some personal problems psychologically. The mystery connects these people in a way, that ultimately changes their lives.
Talaash (which translates to “Search” in English) is a 2012 mystery-cum-thriller film directed by Indian filmmaker Reema Kagti. The screenplay of the movie is co-written by Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar—the duo had previously collaborated on the screenplay of Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011). Kagti’s second directorial venture, Talaash stars Aamir Khan, Rani Mukerji, Kareena Kapoor, and Nawazuddin Siddiqui in major roles. While Talaash starts off as a murder mystery and a police procedural, it gradually develops into a psychological suspense thriller—a genre that’s quite new to Hindi cinema. While a few attempts have been made in the past to tread this uncharted avenue, not many have succeeded in leaving their mark on the audience. The only successful attempt (from the recent past) that comes to one’s mind is Sujoy Ghosh’s Kahaani (2012). While in Kahaani, Sujoy Ghosh had tried to bring the enchanting city of Kolkata (erstwhile Calcutta) to life, Kagti tries to achieve quite the opposite in Talaash. She presents Mumbai as a city of melancholy, a cauldron of endless pain and suffering, an alley of lost souls, a pandemonium of the undead.   

Aamir Khan as Surjan Singh Sekhawat in Talaash, Directed by Reema Kagti
Aamir Khan as Surjan Singh Sekhawat in Talaash
The tone of the movie is set by its eerie, captivating opening song, sung by Suman Sridhar, which portends the doom that lies ahead. A movie star gets killed in a car accident after he suddenly loses control of his car which breaks the sidewalk and falls into the sea. The police appoint Inspector Surjan Singh Sekhawat (Aamir Khan) as the investigating offer to look into the high profile case. Sekhawat’s droopy moustache, steely gaze, and furrowed eyebrows make him the perfect embodiment of a super-tough, no-nonsense cop. But, as we follow Sekhawat, we soon learn that he has demons of his own to deal with. After the accidental death of their only child, Karan, Sekhawat and his wife Roshni (Rani Mukerji) are having a tough time coming to terms with the reality. Their loss is irreparable and pain unbearable. Sekhawat thinks that it was his negligence that caused Karan’s death and finds it impossible to forgive himself for it.

Kareena Kapoor as Rosie (Prostitute) in Talaash, Directed by Reema Kagti
Kareena Kapoor as Rosie in Talaash
While Roshni finds solace in her abject solitude, Sekhawat tries to keep himself occupied with the police work. As viewers, we vicariously experience psychological trauma that Sekhawat and Roshni go through—a perpetual suffering which severely hampers their conjugal relationship. We also learn, through their plight, how difficult it really is to fill the void created by the loss of someone close to us. It’s like getting stuck in a limbo for the rest of one’s life. It’s quite remarkable to see the kind of maturity with which Kagti and Akhtar tackle the complex themes of death and detachment. Their efforts reminds me of Terrence Malick’s 2011 Palme d’Or winning film, The Tree of Life. While Malick’s is undoubtedly a much superior work of cinema, Talaash succeeds in dealing with these themes in a rather simplistic manner.

Rani Mukerji as Surjan's wife Roshni in Talaash, Directed by Reema Kagti
Rani Mukerji as Surjan's wife Roshni in Talaash
During the course of his investigation, Sekhawat gets acquainted with a prostitute named Rosie (Kareen Kapoor) who might be the only one capable of showing him the right path amidst the miasma of doubt and suspicion. But, Rosie seems to have other things on her mind, wooing Sekhawat being one of them. After a slow yet gripping first half the movie gradually picks up its pace as things finally begin to get clearer. Around the end of the movie the story has a huge shock in store for the audience. The shock, though impactful, appears to be both cheesy and superfluous. The movie could have easily done without it.     

Kareena Kapoor as Rosie the prostitute, Aamir Khan as Inspector Surjan Singh Sekhawat, Directed by Reema Kagti
A Still from Talaash
The acting trio of Aamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor, and Nawazuddin Siddiqui deserves all the kudos for their brilliant, exhilarating performances. Aamir Khan delivers yet another thumping performance. Playing the part with his characteristic ease, he succeeds in making it his very own. Over the years, Aamir Khan has earned the notoriety of ghost-directing his films by snatching away the mantle from the movie’s actual directors. Perhaps, the trait comes as part of the package deal that defines his “Mr. Perfectionist” image. What a great coincidence it really is that the only other filmmaker to have earned the notoriety for ghost-direction was another “Mr. Perfectionist,” the legendary Indian filmmaker Guru Dutt. It would thus be quite interesting to speculate about the kind of creative inputs that Aamir would have put into Talaash.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Talaash, Tehmur, pimp's crippled henchman
Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Tehmur in Talaash
Kareena Kapoor is ravishingly alluring in the avatar of a prostitute—a kind of role that she really seems comfortable playing ever since she shook everyone by choosing to play the titular role in Sudhir Mishra’s Chameli (2003). And what can one say of Nawazuddin Siddiqui?  He truly is a chameleon. With each performance he continues to grow in talent as well as stature. After brilliantly portraying a tough cop in Kahaani, he played a junkie-turned-gangster in Gangs of Wasseypur with equal panache. In Talaash, he stupendously portrays the part of a pimp's crippled henchman. He is well on course to becoming the next Naseeruddin Shah of Indian Cinema. Kagti manages to elicit worthy performances from the rest of the cast. Here, I would like to make a special mention of Rani Mukerji who makes her presence felt in the limited screen time she gets. She perfectly fits into the caricature of a bereaved mother on the verge of an emotional breakdown. 

Aamir Khan as Inspector Surjan Singh Sekhawat, Rani Murerji as Surjan's wife Roshni, Directed by Reema Kagti
A Still from Talaash
The only disconcerting part about Talaash is the dramatic twist at the end. In fact, I was flummoxed by the hyper-imaginative, over-ambitious leverage that the creative team took in accommodating it.  Not only does it defy logic, but it also ruins everything else. The only question that I want to ask Talaash’s creative team is “Why?????”. The feeling of betrayal, perpetrated by you-know-what (don't want to give away the spoiler) is just too overwhelming. What makes it even worse is that conscious efforts have been made to convince the audience about the veracity of you-know-what. Any possibility of a doubt could have served as a great respite. After witnessing Talaash’s you-know-what, even the great S.T. Coleridge would be forced to look askance at his own theory of "Suspension of Disbelief". You-know-what may be a tried and tested formula in the West, but it clearly lacks the element of surprise that a real "suspense-thriller" deserves. Except for a couple of cases where the execution was enviably brilliant, it has always failed to pack a punch.

Aamir Khan as Inspector Surjan Singh Sekhawat, Kareena Kapoor as Rosie, prostitute, Directed by Reema Kagti
A Still from Talaash
Overall, Talaash is an intricate work of cinema with several entwined layers that has its high and low points—albeit more high than low. Needless to say, Talaash is brilliant on the technical front. The cinematography, music, and editing are all top notch and the suspense quotient is quite high. But, the big twist in the end is a major let down. And while I find it really difficult not to condemn it, I feel that Talaash deserves due credit for being a cut above the rest. At a time when escapist commercialism is driving Hindi cinema crazy, Talaash serves to be a beacon of hope for serious filmmakers and storytellers who are keen on making quality cinema that offers more than mere entertainment. Talaash, minus its twist, is a thought-provoking work of cinema that succeeds in engaging the audience at different levels, and that’s exactly why Kagti and team deserve our applause. Talaash is high on emotion, intrigue, suspense and drama, and despite the absence of a strong universal appeal, it has enough to keep the intelligent viewer interested.

Readers, please feel free to share your opinion by leaving your comments. As always your feedback is highly appreciated!  

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  1. Haven't heard of this one before, but you make it sound intriguing. I'll be keeping an eye out for it.

  2. Well written review.

    But I disagree on many counts. First this film is not Aamir khan's at all. His presence is not felt. One does not relate to his anger or his grief. Rani did well, Kareena is good in such roles. Nawasuddin Siddique is the only one who is outstanding. The co-actors were also very good.

    Reema Kagti is a good screen play writer, . He has not put his best in this movie.I am totally disappointed with his choice.

    Kahaani is a far better movie with a taut story line. Hope AAmir kahn will work with Sujoy Ghosh!

  3. Bonjour, the movie won't disappoint you as a whole. Do let me know of your opinion as and when you watch it! :-)

  4. Thanks for sharing your valuable thoughts. While I respect your judgement, I still believe that Aamir Khan's performance was a stand out. He conjured up a full-fledged character out of virtually nothing. Btw, I am in absolute agreement as far as Siddiqui's performance is concerned. Also, I am absolutely certain that Ghosh and Khan would make a great director-actor pair as your as Khan doesn't end up sidelining him completely. :-)

  5. Very well written! Your review makes me to hit the cinema hall even if I would find it to give a delay. Applause to you!

  6. Thanks Gayatri for those kind words. I will love to hear from you once you have watched it :-)

  7. There was another Hindi movie named 404 of a similar genre...worth a watch

  8. Thanks Ajit... haven't heard of it... will surely give it a try!!! :-)

  9. Thanks for the detailed review Friend, the dramatic twist at the end ruined the film for which only Ms Reema Kagti is to be blamed.................

  10. A truly well-written review. I watched the movie two times and am about to review it myself. I do agree with you - this movie had much more potential than it fulfilled.

  11. Glad you liked it... would love to read your review of it!!! :-)

  12. Thanks. I will publish it at some point in my blog: http://theasiancinemablog.com/

  13. Thanks for sharing your blog's link!

  14. Hi, posted the review about Talaash: http://theasiancinemablog.com/2014/02/19/talaash-the-answer-lies-within/

  15. Thanks... I just checked it out! I must say that the review is really thoughtful and elaborate... enjoyed reading it thoroughly.

  16. Thank you very much for the kind comment!


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