Guest Post: Talaash (2012) Film Review

I am very pleased to have my good friend Caitlin write this review. 'The Mighty Mango' -- as she is known at the Bollywood Queens blog to which she is a frequent contributor -- lives in Florida, holds degrees in literature and journalism, and is a newspaper copy editor and page designer for a rather well known news media outlet in the state. You might recall her fine contribution to Lagaan Week in this wonderful post. Thank you Caitlin!

If you've seen Talaash, what did you think? Liked it? Loved it? Didn't like it? What's *your* verdict? (If you've written about it, please share the link in a comment below.) 

And since December is upon us, here's wishing you and your families the very best. Merry Christmas and happy holidays! God bless.

I usually stay out of the buzz around upcoming movies because I like to come in with a mostly clean slate. But what I did see of the leadup to Talaash was lots of speculation about the plot because, it being a mystery and all, it was somewhat secretive. I usually like to think it’s a good sign when things are kept under wraps — meaning there might be a big twist. But I’m not so sure it worked out well in this case, though I can see why not knowing details is important in watching this film. So I’m going to try my best to talk about it without ruining anything.

I can tell you this: Surjan “Suri” Shekhawat (Aamir Khan) is a police inspector investigating the death of a young film star who inexplicably swerved on an empty street and crashed into the ocean. Suri’s not without his own problems — he and his wife, Roshni (Rani Mukherjee), are grieving and at odds after the death of their young son — but the case opens up a whole web of blackmail and deaths linked to powerful men mixed with pimps and prostitutes. Including the mysterious Rosie (Kareena Kapoor), who flits around the narrative trying to help Suri with the case when she feels like it and trying to seduce him when she doesn’t.

I’ll take a minute to say that Aamir’s performance is entirely top notch. It’s raw and gripping and moving in all of the right places. Brooding, sleepless and emotionally tortured are hardly the qualities you’d expect from a hero, but Aamir is able to draw you into them. Rani Mukherjee is also stellar, but she ends up mostly as a tangent to the main plot, which to me was a great waste of an amazing actress who gives a brilliant portrayal of a broken wife and mother. She’s hardly the most beautiful character, always looking like she’s hardly slept and slightly out of her mind, but Rani plays Roshni just like she looks: raw.

On the other hand, you have an always overglammed Kareena Kapoor playing a mysterious prostitute. And not very well at that. I tired of her very quickly and think she might have done a better job with the role if all she had to do was be a frivolous streetwalker.

Another performer here who should not go unmentioned simply because he’s not one of that Big 3: Nawazuddin Siddiqui. I loved him in Patang earlier this year, but for Talaash, he turned supporting character Tehmur — pimp Shashi’s lackey, who is partly crippled and kicked around by everyone — into so much more than he probably would have been otherwise.

But if the performances are mostly stellar, the rest of the film is something of a mixed bag.

Talaash is dark. Make no mistake about that. In a very overarching way, the film is about death and people messing with death — and /* Spoiler Alert Roshni’s communicating with her dead son (through a very, very creepy neighbor, I might add) does not sit well with me. End Spoiler Alert */ But stepping away from that, the film continues to carry a dark tone. It’s primarily set in a rather seedy red light district. There are lots of dark emotions and a side of violence. Somehow the majority of actions seems to take place at night.

But in some ways, the dark tone is overdone. The plot doesn’t seem to bear out the level of darkness that the top-notch editing and cinematography provide. For all of the blackmail and malice that stems from the blackmail, the reasons behind it aren’t nearly as dark. Instead, it all comes back to desperation and poor decisions. There’s no instigating evil.

And I won’t spoil it for anyone, but the “twist” of the movie that everyone kept warning that I’d be spoiled on was really not so remarkable or suspenseful and certainly not unique. I had it figured out way before intermission, though I was hoping I was wrong and it wasn’t that simple. The “twist” and its resolution are a little too deus ex machina for me, but, well, without the deus. (In Latin-based literary terms, deus ex machina literally means “God from machine,” figuratively meaning that a resolution is engineered from the inexplicable supernatural, usually without warning.)

And generally thrillers like this want to get you thinking, but once my mind got turning on this one, it couldn’t stop churning out supposed plot elements that are picked up but then ignored.

An officer at the beginning alludes to other unexplained deaths that have happened in the same way as the film star’s, in the same place. Who are the others that have died on the road? How and why did they die if they weren’t linked to what actually killed the film star there? /* Spoiler Alert And by the end of the film, Suri’s superiors have some doubt in his sanity, but for some reason, they want to keep him on — why? And where did the pimp Shashi disappear to before he was found killed? Even worse — who the hell killed him?!
End Spoiler Alert */

The ending also leaves lack of resolution on too many points for my liking.

Does Suri leave the police force? Is he crazy? How does Roshni deal with what her husband has been through — does he even tell her what happened?

But the ending does leave the film’s emotional rollercoaster wrapped up. And maybe that’s what the point was. So if you consider plot tangential to the film and treat emotion as the centerpiece, darkness and all, then the film is fantastic. But if you’re actually looking for a thrilling plot that keeps you thinking and guessing, Talaash leaves something to be desired.


SMS said...

the moment aamir khan gets associated with a movie,a certain level of expectation remains attached to it. talaash, however, fails to carry forward the legacy of taare zameen par and three idiots respectively. the suspense that is revealed in the end is far from acceptable. it flouts all the scientific temper. no doubt, the songs are really very good and technically also the movie stands out. the actors have also done a commendable job. however, the story by itself fails to leave an impression as one walks out of the theatre. the wait that is established at the beginning fails to get fulfilled. it does not match the level of publicity. it is a let down as far as a aamir khan movie is concerned.

Anonymous said...

Excellent Review Caitlin...I am new to theBollywoodfan Blog...but this is by far the best and most honest review of Talaash....I was figuring out how to react to the movie- I loved the fact that in the end the movie had an unexpected turnaround- from whodunit murder mystery to a completely different story-and yet i was disappointed and I could not tell why? but your analysis provided the right answers.Now I know why I felt a little cheated at end of the movie

Niral Ali said...

Talaash was one of my favourite movies! I watched an interview with Aamir Khan on YamgoTV and he seems such a great guy. This is a great review keep up the great work!