This is a film everybody wants to see but hear nothing about. Thrillers are that rare breed in Bollywood, which superstars shy away from, for fear of leaked “spoilers” ruining their mega opening weekends. When a Vidya Balan goes out on a limb carrying a whole big movie like Kahaani on her formidable shoulders, we get a qualified gem. Talaash(The Search) tries to be the answer of jaded audiences search for better quality cinema which has become associated with Aamir Khan.
Here Aamir teams up with Reema Kagti whose directorial debut Honeymoon Travels (P) Ltd made an amazing leap of faith and included undercover super heroes to drive home her message. It was a small film that took a big chance which paid off. Here Kagti feels burdened under the crushing expectations that must accompany one of the biggest releases of the year. This is a big film that takes a small chance. Does it pay off? I leave it up to you to decide. That both films ask us to suspend disbelief, is all I am going to disclose. This film which comes with a big spoiler alert-everybody you talk to screams, “Don’t tell me the ending!!” and I am not going to.
Inspector Suri Shekhawat is a Mumbai police investigator with a big reputation. We see him arrive at a crime scene. A car has veered off at top speed and crashed into the Arabian Sea. The driver is a rising film star. It looks like an accident but Shekhawat is not convinced. The actor was not drunk and had no reason to commit suicide. He applied his brakes which were in working condition and swerved off as if trying to avoid hitting something. The eyewitnesses saw nothing except a dog who knew something bad was going to happen and acted funny, the way animals do when their sixth sense kicks in.
A little later Suri is told by a constable that this case will remain unsolved like a few others in which a similar incident happened at the same spot. Inexplicably this thread is not pursued. We meet Suri’s wife played by Rani Mukherjee. Their 8 year old son died in a drowning accident and Suri blames himself for the death. Unable to sleep he imagines scenarios in which he could have saved his sons life. He is a very troubled man. They move into a new home and his wife meets a psychic who claims to be able to talk to his son. Suri is enraged and tries to pull his wife away from what he feels is a road full of more sorrows.
Suri tries to drown his pain in an obsessive search to solve the case of the actor. His search leads him to the red light districts of Bombay which are populated by stock characters – evil pimps, insolent madams and prostitutes with hearts of gold. But there is one mysterious element here. A prostitute named Rosie played by a ravishing Kareena Kapoor becomes Suri’s informant into the murky world of the Mumbai flesh trade. The best scenes in the film happen between these two. How on earth can an ordinary streetwalker look like Kareena Kapoor is one of the recurring distractions of the film.
And then there is Nawazuddin Siddiqui, the breakout star of Gangs of Wasseypore II, who plays Timur the lame named after the ruthless invader who tried so hard to rise above his handicap. As a cunning sidekick of a pimp he is somewhat wasted and one wonders if he could have played Aamir Khans role better. That would have made it a smaller and perhaps a better film. The most definitive portrait of an obsessed detective has been played by Jack Nicholson in a gem of a film called The Pledge directed by Sean Penn, the actor. Aamir comes nowhere close but we can’t hold that against him, considering the number of hats he wears nowadays.
The fact that there ought to be a law against songs in any serious film has long been agreed by film lovers and the same holds true here. The background music though is a winner and helps the film considerably. The pacing of the film could have been tighter and after a while the sight of a troubled Aamir listlessly driving around Bombay in his police jeep stops being useful. The cinematography is competent but unremarkable.
The films premise is rooted in Indian culture, religion and spirituality. It has at its nerve center the greatest pain that a human being can feel- the loss of a child. Your reaction to how this story plays out will depend a lot on what kind of a person you are and what you believe in, or what you are willing to. The standard of films that Bollywood produces is so miserably low that I am willing to recommend a viewing.
The Talaash for high quality Bollywood cinema continues!