If Talaash were a man then he would be one with a multiple personality disorder. The film is slightly schizophrenic, which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a dud. What it means is that it is a confused concoction of various genres that don’t gel when they’re packaged together.
It’s difficult to explain this without giving the plot away but here’s an example: what if, when watching Jurassic Park, the dinosaurs started singing as they do in The Ice Age? Both films are about dinosaurs and we have watched and enjoyed the adventure as much as the animation. However, we wouldn’t accept either if one started tipping its contents into the other. The same applies to Talaash. It would have been a solid story had it remained decently within the crime/suspense/thriller mold that it is set in; Talaash loses its resonance when it superfluously goes off into the twilight zone.
It works until it does. The first half of the film is engrossing thanks to the characters, which are portrayed brilliantly. Aamir Khan is too seasoned an actor to be anything but impressive but it is the leading ladies — Kareena Kapoor (as Rosie the hooker) and Rani Mukherjee (as Roshni, the wife and mourning mother) — that command the screen. Amongst the men, Nawazuddin Siddiqui (the brilliantly positioned Tehmur) is the breakthrough. Having watched Nawazuddin debut as Deputy Khan in Kahani and then Fazl Khan in the magnus opus, Gangs of Wasseypur, one is confident that this dark and scrawny actor will follow the tracks of Paresh Rawal and Om Puri in depicting gritty realism on the silver screen.
Aamir is Aamir, which means that while he does justice to his role, there is just too much of him in the film. His character reprises a bit of Sanjay Singhania (Ghajini) and a lot of Aamir Khan from Satyamev Jayate. There was a time when one could appreciate Khan for being an actor first and a celebrity/star later but that strength is rapidly slipping away. Aamir has allowed his achievements to get under his skin and in consequence, he can no longer separate his characters from himself. You get to see Aamir Khan shine through Inspector Surjan Singh Shekhawat.
His character may not completely swim or sink but the plot certainly does start slipping away once you figure out Kareena Kapoor’s role in Arman Khan’s death. Somewhere in the last quarter of the film, this is when you want to get up and leave before enduring a disappointing climax. The climax and its lack of twist is Talaash’s Achille’s Heel, its fatal flaw.
That said, the film starts off at a slow but impressive, steady pace. Talaash opens with the death of film star Arman Khan and investigations that are carried out to certify how his car could suddenly swerve off into the ocean (without apparently avoiding or hitting any obstacle). Investigations lead to links with the red light area, prostitution and extortion. In a parallel story, Surjan Singh is struggling to overcome the guilt associated with his eight-year-old son’s death while his wife takes solace in communicating with the dead through a medium. He being the practical, logical thinker and she being the dreamer, their misery subsides towards the end of the film when they realise that ‘the answer lies within’ (whatever that implies).
Co-written by Zoya Akhter and Reema Kagti, who also co-wrote the brilliant Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, one feels that Talaash is the flip side of the bright Spanish holiday and it’s a bit underdone. With Farhan Akhter onboard as director again, it appears that the team was attempting at getting some ‘neo-noir’ on their resume but didn’t quite succeed. Sujoy Khosh did a far more convincing job with Kahani earlier this year.
The strongest element in Talaash, other than the characterisations, is the soundtrack. From the title-rolling Muskaanein Jhooti Hain, to the soulful Jee Le Zara and Jiya Laage Na, these are songs that remain with you long after the story slides.