From the promos for Talaash–Reema Kagti’s sophomore film as director–I was expecting a noirish whodunnit set in Mumbai’s underbelly. What I got for the 700 rupees I paid for two tickets on a Wednesday evening was a moody supernatural drama which may be a lot of things, but a murder mystery it most definitely was not.
Ms Kagti, working from a screenplay co-written with Zoya Akhtar, gets a lot of things right in this film: mood, setting (a stylized, not-quite-Mumbai, but that is okay), and performances. Rani Mukerji plays the neglected wife with the right amount of exhaustion. Nawazuddin Siddiqui as the scheming man-about-a-slum–who limps–is truly outstanding, and Mr. Khan disappears into the character of Surjan Singh Shekhawat effectively enough that one can periodically forget that this is one of the biggest movie stars in India.
K. U. Mohanan’s cinematography is brilliant and if I ever met the man I’d probably pepper him with so many questions about magnification, lighting and exposure settings that he’d request a restraining order against me. Sharmishta Roy’s art direction does a great job of conveying the sleaze and grime that seeps out of every nook and cranny of the world inhabited by the likes of Rosy (Kareena Kapoor) and Taimur (Siddiqui).
So why then, did I still feel like I had no idea of what I had watched?
I think it comes down to the script.
On a blueprint-level the filmmakers don’t seem to have been able to nail down what this movie is. Either that or somewhere along the timeline this film fell prey to the need to be all things to all people. While it is eminently watchable, and definitely one of the better-made films to come out of Bollywood this year, the storytelling leaves a lot more to be desired than the film it is most compared to, i.e., Kahaani.
Though it was not impossible to see it coming, the twist in the tale in Kahaani was satisfactory, and it was delivered with flair.
Not so much in Talaash.
Considering that such a big deal was made about protecting the twist in Talaash it was a severe let-down to discover that that is how they chose to draw back the curtain on the whole sordid episode.
Final Analysis: The thing about a twist in the tale that works is that it motivates audiences to go watch a movie again: like it happened with The Sixth Sense. Because Talaash isn’t truly a film that hinges on its twist I wonder how many people will feel motivated to watch it again. Because let’s face it, this not a feel-good entertainer either.
My Advice: Watch it once. With lowered expectations.