Aniruddha Guha reviews: 'Talaash' is a smartly put-together suspense drama

Friday, 30 November 2012 - 10:00am IST Updated: Friday, 30 November 2012 - 10:27am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
How much you like or dislike Talaash will largely depend on whether the final twist works for you.
Film: Talaash
Director: Reema Kagti
Cast: Aamir Khan, Rani Mukherji, Kareena Kapoor, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Raj Kumar Yadav
Rating: *** ½
 
Talaash starts off with a delectably picturised opening credit sequence that shows Mumbai in the dead of the night, set to the jazzy Muskaanein jhoothi hai. The sequence is captured beautifully by KU Mohanan (whose work on Aushim Ahluwalia’s Miss Lovely was among its redeeming qualities) in an attractive dark tint, a feature that remains admirably consistent throughout the film.

Talaash
, by and large, is an atmosphere-driven movie. It sucks you into a vortex of whore houses, night-patrolling cops, and into the mind of a troubled policeman. Surjan Shekhawat (Khan) is dealing with the death of his only son even as he tries to balance a fractured relationship with his wife (Mukherjee) and the high-profile investigation of a film star’s death. Scoffing at the idea that his deceased son may be trying to communicate with him, Shekhawat finds solace in the companionship of an informant helping him with his case: the sex worker Rosy (Kapoor).  
 
Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar’s screenplay has various strands, some difficult to keep track of, but that’s largely intentional. All its detours, and various sub-tracks, are part of a smart build-up to the finale. Will grieving parents deal with the loss of their only child? Will the mystery surrounding the accident of the film star be solved? Do ghosts really find a way to communicate with the living world? Kagti lays out her cards on the table from the word go, letting you put pieces of the puzzle together as you go along. It’s a difficult plot to hold together and editor Anand Subaya must have had a tough task at hand. The effort shows in places.
 
To her credit, Kagti stays true to the subject matter, and keeps the mood sombre and the narrative moving. Humour is sparse and unexpected – like a bewildered subordinate stuck between a quarrelling husband and wife – but never forced. Ram Sampath’s catchy score, Sharmishta Roy’s deft handling of the art design and Nandini Shrikent’s casting of all the right actors even in the small parts make all the difference.
 
I found Aamir Khan’s portrayal of Shekhawat inconsistent, the actor best when playing a troubled father rather than a stern cop. However, you have to give him credit for taking on a film that hardly conforms to commercial norms. Khan’s presence will help Talaash get wide reach, and give viewers a chance to experience a film that doesn't entirely take its audience for granted. Rani Mukherji is good in a small role, while Kareena Kapoor is likeable, even though she comes across as a bit too refined to play a commercial sex worker. The film’s standout performance comes from Nawazuddin Sidiqui, who’s had a cracker of a year so far (Kahaani, Gangs Of Wasseypur, Chittagong). As Temur, Siddiqui’s character has a well-etched graph and his track complements the central plot well. Raj Kumar Yadav makes an impression in the role of Shekhawat’s subordinate.
 
There are times when you feel Talaash might fall apart, but it thankfully comes together neatly in the last 30 minutes or so. As much as the story hinges on the final revelation – one that’s supposed to jolt you – the journey itself isn’t too bad either. It demands an investment of time and patience, surely, but the pay-off is rewarding. How much you like or dislike the film will largely depend on whether the final twist works for you. It did for me. 



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