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Starring: Aamir Khan, Rani Mukherji, Kareena Kapoor, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Subratt Dutta
Directed by Reema Kagti
Talaash is two different films rolled into one. There’s a thriller probing a filmstar’s death: was it an accident or a murder? Concurrently, there’s a tale about a cop and his wife coping and coming to terms with the loss of their son. While the latter is a very affecting and compelling track, the former leaves one very dissatisfied.
The jigsaw puzzle is laid out well to begin with. As with most Excel productions, Talaash is a very well dressed film. The striking, sensuous visuals and the moody music create a perfect setting for crime. There are nods to various films, from The Sixth Sense to What Lies Beneath. And the red-light area, with its colourful characters, seems like an updated version of Salaam Bombay. If Kareena is the femme fatale of many a “film noir”, the nosy neighbour Shernaz Patel is the derivative of the many eccentric ladies of crime—from Arsenic and Old Lace to Rosemary’s Baby. However, the “police procedural” itself doesn’t prove quite as impenetrable or befuddling. The film flounders as the mystery begins to unravel. Why does every strand in an Indian thriller need to be tied up neatly? Why does everything need to be explained and spelt out clearly? What of the power of the unsaid? In retrospect, one wonders if the film wouldn’t have been better off just as a study in sorrow? Does not the whodunit angle detract rather than contribute to the film? The biggest disappointment of all is the jerky, altogether clumsy resolution that meshes the two tracks together. It doesn’t feel as though it has grown organically from within the narrative but something thrust from outside. In an effort to be intriguing, the film ends up being silly.
Aamir as the cop seems to have a fixity of gaze at the start of the film, for a reason. He gradually grows and acquires shades with his character. Kareena plays herself but, as his confidante, fails to find a vibe with Aamir. It’s Rani—delicate, subtle and heartachingly sad, an effortlessly cheeky, razor-sharp chaiwala (Nawaz) and unaffected pimp (Subratt) who prove to be the backbone and keep one involved till the end. Or at least, till a little before the end.