“Talaash”… Water, water everywhere

At the beginning of Jab Tak Hai Jaan, we watched Shah Rukh Khan make his appearance while defusing a bomb as the people around him spoke admiringly of his heroism – but the film, it turned out, wasn’t interested in heroics at all. Reema Kagti’s Talaash similarly dismantles the halo around its hero Aamir Khan, who plays the dour Inspector Suri Shekhawat. (His dourness is doubled thanks to a thick moustache that curls downwards, resembling the emoticon for a frown.) As he drives up to the scene of an accident – a car swerved off the road and flew into the Arabian Sea, killing its driver – an awestruck subordinate tells him, “Bahut suna hai aapke baarein mein.” This hint of far-reaching fame makes us expect another valorous saga like Sarfarosh – the film, instead, is an existential mood piece. Perhaps it’s too soon to declare that the biggest Bollywood stars are playing their age, shying away from overt heroics, but consider this: the driver of the doomed vehicle is himself a big Bollywood star, whose heroism is reserved for the shooting spot, where he’s seen guns blazing, in front of a green screen. Out on the streets, though, he’s a coward who meets a most unheroic death. Coincidence or commentary?

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The talaash of the title, at first, suggests the search for answers. Why did the car end up in the water? Was it suicide? If not, who was behind the accident? In short, we seem to be in for a nail-biting police procedural based on a “high-profile case.” But gradually, that search takes a backseat to others – a father’s search for peace, a wife’s search for a husband who’s vanished into a void of self-flagellation, and a forgotten victim’s search for closure. Kagti brings this all together with a sure touch that her first film, the fitfully entertaining Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd., never hinted at. Even if the resolution leaves you underwhelmed – and despite the artfully placed pointers to seediness, with ragpickers, porn DVDs displayed proudly in stores, derelicts and druggies, some may feel Talaash is just classily dressed up crap – the film is so beautifully made and so atmospheric that several scenes stick in mind.

Like the one where Suri and his wife Roshni (Rani Mukerji, who really should stop slathering pancake on those freckles; she looks lovely here) go to a mindless Ajay Devgn entertainer – a world far, far removed from that of Talaash – to forget their troubles at home, only to find that life doesn’t always work the way you want it to. Suri, instead of watching the movie, amuses himself by watching his wife laugh, but when they exit the theatre, they run into a living-breathing reminder of the source of their unhappiness. (And that goes back, again, to an accident that occurred in water.) Kagti sticks to an even tone most of the time, rarely turning up the volume except in the emotionally loaded songs, so the dramatic showpieces, when they occur, are a punch in the gut. The quieter moments are equally powerful, like the lingering nighttime scene between Suri and the prostitute Rosie (Kareena Kapoor), filled as much with silence as dialogue.

Watching Talaash is also a reminder of how a female writer-director (Kagti wrote the movie with Zoya Akhtar) can clue us into the nooks and crannies of a story or a character that we would not usually get from a male filmmaker. I am thinking of the undercurrents in the scene where Suri and Roshni witness a bunch of lively kids from their colony dance to Jhalak dikhla jaa on stage, or the alternate what-if scenarios that torment Suri’s mind, or the time Roshni spends in unpacking things in her new home, or the character of Frenny (Shernaz Patel), a psychic who waltzes into Roshni’s life bearing a cheesecake. She comes off, initially, as creepy or plain crazy, but she gradually becomes the eccentric anchor for the film’s paranormal themes. (And what a relief it is that she’s left out of the closing portions, with only her handiwork driving the final scene – again by the water.) There’s also the grace bestowed on a couple of female characters, prostitutes both – Madhur Bhandarkar, rubbing his hands with sadistic glee, would have kicked them right into a sewer. Even the rug-pulling, at the end, isn’t presented with a magician’s flourish but as the quietest of epiphanies.

These touches elevate the material, which sometimes feels derivative, perhaps even silly – and all the actors do solid work. Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who seems incapable of appearing in a bad movie or delivering a bad performance, is especially good as the token comedian (insofar as a serious story will allow for comedy) – he gets a big laugh out of the cell phone in his pocket, and even his name, Timur, sounds like wordplay. (Did I mention that he’s lame?) I walked out of Talaash not so much exhilarated as thoroughly engaged, but (spoilers ahead) films like these have their own afterlife, inviting us to think back on how it all fits – the dog barking at the beginning, the leitmotif of flowers, the phrase “pehchaanein jhoothi hain” in the song that plays over the opening credits, Suri telling the streetwalking Rosie “Tum pehle se narak mein ho,” Rosie’s repeated knowing smiles, and even her name, which resembles Roshni’s. The only thing that left me puzzled was the use of mirrors in scenes with Rosie, right from her introduction as a reflection on a glass tabletop. Isn’t that…? Shouldn’t she…? But how can…? The search continues.

Copyright ©2012 Baradwaj Rangan. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.

80 thoughts on ““Talaash”… Water, water everywhere

  1. *Spoilers*

    I think Rosie’s introduction scene (aren’t you talking about the scene where Shashi picks up three girls from the brothel?) is intended as a three-year-old flashback.The red herring was Nawaz’s appearance is the yellow T-shirt and red shorts, which he was wearing in a previous scene. But the fact that she talks to Shashi (who wants three girls) and she is seated between two girls at the back of the seat tells us that she isn’t.. you know.

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  2. Pingback: 'Talaash' - A psychological thriller *img Aamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Rani Mukherjee - Page 47 - Snehasallapam

  3. It’s funny you say some parts stick out because the story is written by women… Reema on the other hand claims that there are no gender based stories just writers… Maybe you should link this to the other post where you say some part of the audience tries to decipher what the director wanted to convey in a particular scene… Dissecting it more for personal satisfaction than what the director intended to :)

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  4. Hahaha! What a way to end a really good review!

    @Nidhi : *spoilers* In Rosie’s introduction scene she doesn’t talk to Shashi at all IIRC. Shashi talks to ‘aunty’ who is seated in between two others. Rosie is seated separately.

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  5. SPOILERS AHEAD…

    Nidhi / Pradyumna: I’m talking about the mirror in the elevator, the one in the hotel room – what am I missing here? Are these just red herrings, or is Rosie somehow more corporeal than other… you-know-whats?

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  6. SPOILERS AHEAD, please do not read further unless you have watched the film.
    ————————
    1. I am glad I read the review only after having watched the film. Is it implied that the actor’s car crash happened under circumstances (and due to causing factors) identical to the one at the end of the film ?

    2. From your last paragraph, I did not understand the references to “the leitmotif of flowers” and “even her name, which resembles Roshni’s.” among the list of things one pieces together once one knows the ending. Could you clarify ?

    3. The end was a let-down, but I didn’t regret the experience of having watched the film. The search was interesting even if its result wasn’t. It fits in now why the entire emphasis in the film’s marketing (and also the thrust of the film initially) was to do with the murder mystery/investigation. That conditioned the audience appropriately.

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  7. @Nidhi. I think Rosie was a ghost in both those scenes you mentioned. Shashi did not respond to her taunting and I remember thinking it odd. Same goes for Timur in retrospect. He didn’t seem to notice Rosie looking at him while he “stealthily” stole money of the table.

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  8. This is Indian style. 80% of the audience including educated and living abroad relish Indian movies without using the brain, because some have actors fad, ,some have actress mooch, some have music directors hardcore, some have self-projections of few locations and scenes and the Indian film makers encash in all without posting to the mad taste of the audience. Yhe joke part of it, they are obssessed about not getting the awards and that too OSCARS(!). LIFE GOES JINGA LAL LA HERE–DOES IT MAKE ANY SENSE?; YET THIS IS THE BEST ADVT ON MEDIA SELECTED. GOK

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  9. What is the water connection here? (SPOILER – If Rosie’s tragedy was because of water, I could make a connection) You seem to hint at the title of the piece as well. I was thinking too much about it still came up with nothing.

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  10. spoilers (pls dont read if you havent seen the movie yet)

    the climax of the film is a frame to frame ripoff of the robert zemecki’s film ‘what lies beneath’.. the ghost in the middle of the road, the car swerving into water, the ghost helping the ‘hero’ out and making sure the ‘villain’ dies.. i know the setting of the film is different but isn’t the climax the main pivot of the film and if so then isnt this a copy?

    unless they changed the ending after the release of ‘kahaani’ (and hence the delay in the release of talaash) it is hard to think that aamir said yes to a ‘inspired’ film..

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  11. *Spoilers ahead*

    I’m not sure either since even the ‘reveal’ happened when Sooraj sees her reflection in the rear-view mirror.

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  12. Why do I get the feeling that you were distracted while writing this review? I am yet to watch the movie and had to quickly scroll through the comments titled ‘spoilers ahead’. You’ve not indicated if ultimately you liked the movie or not. For me, the comment – .”..Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who seems incapable of appearing in a bad movie or delivering a bad performance, is especially good as the token comedian (insofar as a serious story will allow for comedy)…” is some indication that the movie is good.

    Why the cat-on-the-wall review? Even your blog post title doesn’t give an indication. Please say, is the movie good?

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  13. Really loved the way you have pondered over the subtle hints given in dialogues and lyrics cause most critics dont give much thought to them.
    This is the new wave of cinema which I want to see in Bollywood. Not the crap masala/comedy/romantic stuff served by the big stars. But I dont think it will happen as no actor has as much guts as Aamir and the masses also reject such movies.

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  14. Is this a film that can take Aamir’s legacy of 10+ hits in a row forward? Does this have enough stuff to become a rage among the audience (like 3 idiots, ghajni, peepli live etc except maybe Dhobi Ghat)? Did Aamir ‘HAVE’ to do this movie? Did Nawazudding HAVE to do this movie? Did Aamir take the script to a different level due to his sheer presence? I will not shout NO to above questions but would at least whisper a NO. But I might not have watched it if Aamir or Nawaz was not acting in it. So…

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  15. Somehow i found some amount of Kamal Hassan styled characters with some philosphy & completness in each characters – and what consistency in the characters and in the atmosphere ! Mr. ARM , pls see this movie :0

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  16. Spoilers ahead.

    Whatever the effect of the mood and mien of Talaash, and its solid performances all round, I still felt gypped by the denouement. Am a huge fan of thrillers, supernatural films and horror flicks, and whilst there is a “liturgy” of yesses and nos and dos and dont’s in these films, Talaash’s lack of logic does seem stupefying. The ‘corporeal’ Kareena Kapoor Khan can be seen in mirrors, can open doors, can ruffle Aamir’s hair, but is incapable of even slapping her troika of tormentors for up to 3 years after her advancement into the after-life. Or maybe in the university of lost souls in the sky, one needs to do a 3 year course to gain some level of corporeality. A 5-year course, and she would not need Aamir Khan perhaps. Gypped I tell you. Wouldn’t mind this highway robbery from Vikram Bhatt and Emraan Hashmi, but not from the kind of talent behind Talaash.

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  17. Pingback: Talaash Critics Reviews: Gets Above Average To Excellent Reviews

  18. Timur is a literal reference to Timur Lang, no? Nawaz’s Timur reminded me of Naseer’s Tundroos from Mandi.
    I wonder why Farhan AKhtar has to use google translate to convert his English dialogues to Hindi. Hence , “I wont bite” becomes “Mai katoongi nahi” in Hindi , instead of the more natural “Mai Kha nahi jaoongi” I” have my moments” becomes “Kuch pal hain” in Hindi etc .
    Though everyone does it these days, Farhan Akhtar is a repeat offender,.I know, that thinking and writing in English can’t be avoided these days, but how hard is it to hire a proper translator ?

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  19. Spot on review…been a lurker for long, thought a new Aamir Khan movie would be the right time to join the discussion here — really like the sensibility you bring to all things movie & desi-cultural.

    I think the big winner, in an otherwise mildly disappointing experience only because the movie promised so much & with Aamir the expectations are always high, was the atmosphere. The sense of foreboding, highly accentuated by the music & cinematography (the latter is really an elegiac poem to Mumbai, literally & perhaps metaphorically too, in the darkest hours of night), the quiet conversations by the sea, the eerily quiet streets that might explode with a ghastly accident, the grimly colorful seediness…the director, in her own way, captures Mumbai, & an other-worldliness about it, the best it has been on cinema in recent times.

    About the mirrors, I agree that was badly done. If it was a red herring, than it really didn’t make sense, just seemed like almost abusive audience manipulation. If it was an allegory of sorts (she’s as real as your image in a mirror is or something like that), then, again, it either wouldn’t register (for people who hadn’t figured out the deal with her) or seemed too labored for those who had.

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  20. LOTS OF SPOILERS AHEAD:

    Sameer: Reg. “In those scenes, we are looking from POV of Suri” – actually that was also a bit confusing. In the scene in the car, for instance, when he says “dekho kaise ghoor ke dekh rahe hain,” we’re clearly with Suri’s POV. He sees Rosie. The cops don’t. But then we get a scene where Suri is threatening the madam in the brothel, the big lady with curlers in her hair, and there, as the camera passes through the prostitutes gathered, we see Rosie smiling at the end. But Suri is not looking at her — he doesn’t even know she’s there. So that’s not from his POV. I understand that that shot is there as a red herring, to fool us, but this inconsistent POV — and the stuff Shantesh Row points out — is what makes the movie a bit “silly,” as I’ve said in my review.

    Arun: (1) Yes, that’s why the dog at the beginning began to howl, sensing something supernatural. (2) The film opens with a shot of flowers and we see a vase of lilies and other kinds of thing periodically in the film, and I felt this kind of led to the flowers at Rosie’s grave.

    Aravindan: Water, because the first accident and the last one — both bookends — happen in water, and also because Suri’s kid dies in water. Both the professional aspect of the “talaash” and the personal instances of “talaash” are due to watery circumstances, hence my title. (Which I admit is not all *that* inspired :-) ) That’s why even the way the title of the film appears at the beginning, it seems to be rippling in water.

    MumbaiRamki: Actually, most big-budget Tamil filmmakers don’t really care about consistency in mood/atmosphere — they think in terms of what works best for each scene, and the film looks like a bunch of disjointed pieces. But the smaller filmmakers do give this aspect a lot of consideration. Or maybe, because of the lack of budget, they are forced to stick to a limited palette, which in turns makes the mood/atmosphere consistent.

    Kiruba: In Kochi now and really busy week ahead. Won’t get to see “NKPK” and “Neerparavai” until much later.

    Rahul: “Timur is a literal reference to Timur Lang, no?” Yup. Isn’t that what I’ve said in the review, that he’s lame, and hence the name? About the language, that “katoongi nahin” bit was jarring, but overall I felt Farhan did a much better job here than in his other films. Wonder what Anurag Kahyap’s contribution was, though.

    JS: Welcome.

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  21. Very good review, as usual. However, didn’t understand whether the climactic twist worked for you or not; would be happy if you clarify.

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  22. Very Well written review! Every film starts with a two-line idea followed by a 1 page/paragraph story. For Talaash, these two stages of script development would ve felt like pretty unconvincing, with loose ends, little devoid of logic. But from the story stage to the final screenplay, kudos to Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti. And then superb performances by the leads! The after-life of the movie i.e. post facto analysis of how all the things fitted, a few open to interpretations sequences, are all due to an interesting screenplay. A daring attempt to explore the paranormal genre, but there are loose ends, questions which mitigate the overall effect. Finally though it borrows slightly from A Beautiful mind; Shutter Island; Sixth Sense, all – in -all, a good suspense thriller, not mind blowing. Its lesser than Kahaani by couple of notches!!

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  23. Thought IFFK started next week, and again it’s in TVM, no?
    Diudn’t care about Neerparavai (or for that matter Talaash either), but NKPK is an instance of real life being weirder than and inspiring some of the best fiction in this category.
    The film handles it’s central gimmick with utmost sincerity (was vainly hoping for a slip In the amnesia presentation, though)!Yet it is the funniest film I watched this year. And for the second time this year, I saw audience giving a big round of applause after The End.
    Can’t wait for your thoughts on it though.

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  24. the review and the feedbacks gave me a better understanding of the film… I just watched it few hours back… a nice movie…

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  25. SPOILERS AHEAD :

    It is interesting to see how much grouse is being caused because Rosie’s reflections are there on the mirror. Interesting because we are ready to accept that there are spirits of dead people out there but not that they can have a mirror image.

    But the broader picture is how popular culture affects popular perception. We take it that spirits do not have shadows because movies and books have always said so. Therefore we find it incredulous that spirits have shadows but not that they exist or that only some people can see them. It is a bit like 2001 : A space odyssey (the movie) giving us a fantastic imagery of the moon and other planets and the actual moon landing being but a confirmation of this imagery. (As much as I try not to be a conspiracy theorist, this is one instance which refuses to get out of my head)

    BR : Rosie being there in the line of prostitutes or being “in front of Temur” when he is on the phone is just a statement that there is someone always watching on you. No? To spot minor inconsistencies in a sci-fi/super natural movie seems like a weird execise.

    SPOILERS and comment ENDs.

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  26. Remember when the older prostitute Nirmala says to Timur, ‘teeno tange katenge’ or some such? I am sure that was Anurag Kashyap’s contribution. :D

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  27. SPOILER

    Wasn’t there a scene right at the intermission in which Timur calls and demands money and Rosie stands next to him and says something like “you are very smart?” Do they talk to each other?

    That also is Red Herring uh.

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  28. >>Kagti sticks to an even tone most of the time, rarely turning up the volume except in the emotionally loaded songs, so the dramatic showpieces, when they occur, are a punch in the gut>>

    Totally unintentionally related tweet from Kagti – “Guys pls don’t let out any spoilers and please insist to the theatres that they play the sound at volume 7 for #Taalash”. No clue why.

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  29. *SPOILERS*

    I just had one question for BR and some others who’ve mentioned it here… why is it taken as a given that ghosts can’t appear in mirrors? I mean if she is shown to us in a corporeal form for our benefit, why not show her in the mirror as well? It’s willing suspension of disbelief after all, I’m hoping nobody is arguing the “logic” of it. Personally I have never been much for ghosts and supernatural stuff, I can’t even begin to poke holes in it before it all falls apart for me. But I’ve become more comfortable with the suspension of disbelief lately, which gives one a better chance to appreciate other aspects of a movie.

    I was just curious about why this mirror bit irritates you in particular, even though you seem ok with the rest of it.

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  30. *Spoilers*

    The scenes which you refer to, in which Kareena’s character can be seen in mirrors, open doors and ruffle Aamir Khan’s hair, take place only when his character is by himself. So it can be said that we are seeing things from his point of view, while in reality he might be doing things like opening doors by himself.

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  31. Totally agree about the dramatic scenes punching you in the gut. IMO, the two major things going for the movie were the consistent mood and the performances. The big letdown was the over-expositional finish á la Kahaani.

    Sidebar (**spoiler ahead**): I don’t see the red herring-ness of KK’s mirror reflections. Let’s face it — if she’s non-corporeal, his being able to see her is no different from seeing her mirror reflection, light having to bounce off her and hit his retina and all that. We’re expected to suspend disbelief about that bit, so unless she’s a vampire, I don’t see the problem. Ok, I’ll quit nerding out now.

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  32. SPOILERS AHEAD:

    Abhirup: I wasn’t overly enthused by it. But I guess the dignified way it was handled made it seem a lot easier to digest. Had there been horror music and all, it would have come across as much sillier.

    Aravindan: Yup — she just happens to be everywhere :-)

    And to all: Okay, I guess I’ll have to take my head out of the sand now and admit that the mirror bits weren’t out of place :-) I didn’t feel they were a deal breaker as such (and neither was I “irritated” by them, as someone above suggests), but I guess I was startled by the “obviousness” of the red herring.

    Over years of conditioning, we know movie ghosts have no shadows etc., and the reflection aspect being advertised so conspicuously made it seem — on reflection (ha ha) — that the red herring was too obvious. Had the mirrors not been brought to our attention so obviously — in Rosie’s first shot, in the elevator — and had Rosie been shown casually, I guess I may not have reacted this way.

    I guess I reacted more to the deliberateness of the staging than the fact that there was a reflection.

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  33. **Spoiler ahead** So, before watching the movie, I accidentally stumbled upon the movie’s twist in a comment thread somewhere (yes, I know — let that be a lesson to me). Thus I watched the entire movie knowing KK’s true nature, and noticed that although she makes comments to Shashi and Timur pre-intermission, neither says anything back to her. Both Timur and Sanjay Kejriwal see her only when their own death is impending, whatever that might mean.

    If Kagti hadn’t insisted on painfully elaborating the entire twist at the end, I’m sure people would only be happy to watch the movie again for all these seeming conflicts. I’m completely baffled by her decision to wrap up the movie the way she did.

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  34. “I’ve said in the review, that he’s lame, and hence the name?”
    Yes, Indeed. I just got thrown off by the mention of wordplay, and was looking for something else.

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  35. Pingback: Talaash – External Reviews | Bollywood

  36. Thanks for the reply, Mr. Rangan. I agree about the dignified handling of the twist. Why weren’t you “enthused” about it, though? Is it because you think there shouldn’t have been any paranormal elements in the film? Just asking.

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  37. So it looks like Aamir is still in it pretty much, 12 years and counting. I was wondering when the midas touch was going to disappear. He seems to be running a well-oiled machine of screenplay selection, director casting, marketing and such. Sadly I don’t see any parallels to him down south, at least amongst contemporary actors.

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  38. A more obvious example of the deliberateness of the red herringness is perhaps Rosy spying on a coversation in hiding. If she cant be seen by others, why hide ?

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  39. i do not know how many clarifications you have issued about this in the past, but the lack of a rating system with stars, in your reviews effectively means that readers like me cannot read your review for a certain period of time. I don’t like any plot details or analysis to be revealed before the movie (apart from what inevitably comes through the promos, and acknowledging that you try to avoid spoilers anyway), and after seeing the movie ,if I want to write a review of it, again I don’t want to read reviews of that movie beforehand because their perspective and insight might hamper the originality of my own article. I go through Deccan Chronicle, HT,TOI and some assorted critics just for a glance of the ratings (you may argue that that itself can influence my opinion of the film- i don’t have much to say for that) but inevitably when I come to your website, I get no assistance in this regard. You may again say that you are encouraging people to read the prose rather than seeing the rating and scooting off, but then you’re actually better off not having those kind of superficial readers. Moreover, the majority of readers who visit your website are those who tolerate and relish detailed prose.

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  40. SPOILERS
    I think the anomalies in this film can be explained by a little bit of analysis. I submit that Rosie is not a regular ghost. She is a ghost with issues, or, a ghost with personality.
    Nowhere does she seem vengeful – she seems almost philosophical. She does not have significant anger against the guys who left her on the road to die.After all, she was invisible to the society anyway. No one looked for her, she had no relatives, nothing. She talks about a girl who just vanished from the face of earth, and nobody missed her. This is the existential angst that bites away at her soul. She is a ghost who is more worried about the way she led her life, rather than regular ghosts who worry about how and why they were killed.
    What would you do if you were a ghost with inferiority complex? If you always felt like a wallflower? Well, of course, you go and stand in the middle of the road, where no one can help not seeing you.Its the most natural thing to do. Please note that she did this randomly, if I remember correctly there were many accidents before the one in the beginning of the film. Of course, this does not speak very well about her traffic sense, and she does seem to have an ambiguous moral position about human lives, but , death for her is but a transformation, instead of the end. I wont judge her harshly on account of that. She is just craving for attention.
    That small bit about appearing in the mirrors? Well, a ghost who carries her insecurities into afterlife, has obviously not been able to let go of her ego. She is still worried about how others perceive her. That is why the mirror shows her reflection back to us. She is still to attain true ghostdom, which perhaps she did attain by the end of the movie, after her little friendship with Aamir Khan.

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  41. Ratings have a yardstick or thumb rules framed by the author. Hence it becomes too personal. Prose is an analysis. You make your decision according to your taste. If some one is bent on seeing sharuk or Rajni film come what may, what is the us of rating?

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  42. I am extremely disappointed in Talaash. If I wanted to see a ghost movie I’d just pick up The Sixth Sense or What Lies Beneath and watch those ten times over rather than see this movie once. Here’s a list of the movies I think it pilfered from:
    I, Robot (for the scene of AK being rescued from the car in the water)
    Minority Report (for the son dying in/near water and the father trying to get over it)
    What Lies Beneath (long list of reasons, headed by the pier where the kids take the boat)
    The Sixth Sense (for obvious reasons)

    It appears that for the creative well has run dry for the Akhtar family. After an awesome movie like Luck By Chance (“crocodile in a chiffon saree!”), she along with Reema Kagti served up this? Tut, tut. I watched Makkhi just before this and that made my day, far more than this film ever could.

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  43. I agree with UPN on the ratings. A ratings system would be helpful for readers who do not want to know anything about the movie other than whether it is well-made or not in the opinion of their favourite critic before spending time and effort on it. I had to go through a circutious route to determine BR’s opinion without reading the review. I used the word “good” in Explorer to find this word in BR’s essay. No luck. I searched for the word “bad” using Explorer. That gave me “Nawazuddin Siddiqui, who seems incapable of appearing in a bad movie or delivering a bad performance…”, Viola! BR thought the movie was not bad. But, I still couldnot help knowing that Nawazuddin Siddiqui is in it. If nothing else, BR can at least just say whether movie was well-made or not at the beginning or the end of his essay. That sure would help some readers make up their mind to watch the movie or not without knowing much else about it.

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  44. While I love this kind of scholarly analysis, I also beg to differ with some of your conclusions which seem to have far reaching implications for comprehending this masterpiece of a movie.

    SPOILERS
    How can you say Rosie is not vengeful? she is indeed the philosophical kind, but can’t the two traits coexist in the same ghost? Doesn’t she eventually kill everyone ‘responsible’ for her death? Doesn’t this list include the victims of those ‘random accidents’ you mention, heartless Mumbaikars who sped by ignoring her cries for help, leaving her to die on that fateful night? She probably started with those characters who had the remotest connection, saving the really big ones for the last. That should explain why it took her 3 years to finish them all off. In light of the above, won’t you also agree that there exists no evidence that her traffic sense is poor?

    I agree that she seems caught in an existential quandary, but her MO definitely reflects the pain in her heart about her manner of death. Speaking about MO, her plotting seems impeccable. The ploys are elaborately and leisurely staged. for instance, isn’t the whole investigation by Suri set up by Rosie to bring Kejriwal to that exact spot on the sea face road in the middle of the night? (One can only surmise how she drew her other victims). None of this can be termed random? And with that single set-up, she manages to achieve not one, but three objectives. Kills the main fellow responsible for her death, saves a marriage and above all, transforms Suri in to a ‘believer’ thereby possibly strengthening her own status among her brethren! All this point towards an intelligent design.

    I don’t see any ambiguity in her moral position towards human lives either; to her, all those who let her die are bad and should be dumped in the sea. There is evidence that she actually cares for others. Suri, the young girl she frees from the ‘madam’ etc. Yes, all these characters are pawns in her game but doesn’t she ensure that they end up safe?

    Apart from the above, it is possible she received some therapist training in ghostdom too. Upon understanding that Suri’s current plight is the result of a search that ended in failure in water, she devises the most ingenious treatment: a search that ends again in water, but successfully(?). And it seems to work.

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  45. Love Rahul’s explanation about Kareena’s actions, never thought of it that way, but yes, was wondering why the cop mentions multiple acccidents if there only 3 people involved that night, and one was already injured and the third one was still alive till almost the end.

    As for me, Talaash disappointed me….and I am a die-hard Aamir fan from the time he burst onto the stage with ‘Papa Kehte hain’. And here’s why:

    1) The movie was promoted as a suspense drama with an emotional side to it.
    I went in expecting the enquiry and the suspense to be the main part with a cop having personal issues, somewhat like Dum Maaro Dum (just as an example) or a lot of other English movies.
    What I found this to be, instead, was an emotional drama with the suspense thrown in as an afterthought which helps in the healing process. And, even that was not done elgantly or with much heart. If it were not for the three main actors and some other fab side ones, this movie would not have engaged me at all. I mean, if you want to show parents recovering from the loss of a child as the main theme – then do it! Do it with more conviction, involvement and commitment.

    2) The movie was really very slow. I watched it with patience just because of the actors. Tighter editing, or, more engaging scenes were needed.

    3) I hate watching suspense thrillers in which the audience knows more than the investigator, somewhat takes me back to old movies where everyone except the hero knows who killed his father. This is somewhat what happened in Talaash. Maybe I am conditioned watching CID and Adalat, which though not as polished as the movie, still shows what you can do with evidence – for e.g. why didn’t the police check Armaan’s phone records? Why was it, that when they could not find Sashi, that they did not try tracking down his cell and ask Timur if he had changed his SIM? The whole investigation was so very half hearted, much like the director’s attempt to bring out the emotional side.

    Oh well, not sure why I am nitpicking. I would love an Aamir Khan movie to be successful, and maybe I had too much expectation, but the movie seemed so half-hearted as if the director could not make up her mind, one way or the other.

    Btw, I am surprised that people who saw both movies are still comparing this to Kahaani – to me they are very different movies with different aspirations. Kahaani had very little information about the protagonist – especially about her emotions except for little snippets at the end.

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  46. Rahul: Really liked your take on that, though I think I side with Kiruba’s explanation of things. There was a bit of vengeance there, just that it was handled without schlock.

    UPN/Vivek Gupta: I’ve said this before. There are three things at work here:

    (1) Just because I say a film is good, it doesn’t follow that you’re going to find it good as well. So my “verdict” is ultimately meaningless to anyone but me.

    (2) People get very worked up about star ratings, because that’s the first thing their eyes go to. And that becomes the defining characteristic for the review, and not the analysis that comes later.

    (3) I think I do give a sense of whether or not the film worked for me in the overall sense. I mean, reading this, for instance, I don’t think anyone’s going to come away with the notion that I thought it was a bad movie.

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  47. BR: In response to your points:

    (1) Personally for me, I have felt that your opinion correlates very well with what I thought about a movie. Your sensibilities as a movie goer match well with mine and my guess is that a lot of readers of this blog will say the same thing. A lot of times I have gone to a movie only after I read your opinion and in most cases I have liked the movie. The recent example is Barfi which I went to solely you liked the movie and I liked it so much that I have seen it thrice already.

    (2) May be true. But the high quality readership that your blog attracts (judging by the comments) you may be underestimating your readers.

    (3) Oh, yes. After I read your review, I do get a sense of whether you liked a movie or not. but I am speaking from the POV of a movie-goer who doesn’t want to know anything about the movie (to the extent possible) before he sees it other than the fact whether it may be worhtwhile to venture into the theater or not. Reading a review of something like ‘Talaash’ before watching it would surely take some of the surprise element out of the movie-watching experience. So it would be helpful to know whether it is ‘well-made’ or not with a simple Yes or No without giving away details. A rating system may help with that. That’s all I am saying.

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  48. >> Kagti sticks to an even tone most of the time, rarely turning up the volume except in the emotionally loaded songs, so the dramatic showpieces, when they occur, are a punch in the gut.

    Yes, for the most part. I found it extremely difficult to suppress my laughter when Roshni was blasting off at Suri outside their apartment building, and the sub-inspector – presumably famished, and befuddled by the unexpected turn of events – was loitering around the feuding partners, just waiting to be excused. He was in the background, but clearly visible. I was surprised why Kagti chose to add humor to this otherwise emotionally heavy scene.

    I thought Rani was superb in this scene, by the way. It was probably the most important scene for her character in this movie. I just couldn’t focus on her as much as I wanted to. Roshni’s pivotal scene was stolen by a loitering sub-inspector.

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  49. @Gargi, pilfered? Really? Just because some scenes/situations resemble scenes from other movies, doesn’t mean that Kagti stole ideas from those movies. Suri’s mustache also looks like Ajay Devgan’s in Singham. Would you say Kagti “pilfered” from Singham too, then?

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  50. Vivek Gupta: I’m not getting into this stars/thumbs business. I suck at it and readers pick up on these ratings and don’t look beyond that. If all you want is an “idea,” maybe I could pick out phrases and concatenate them like a tweet at the end? For example, with “Talaash”:

    Not so much a nail-biting police procedural as an existential (and expertly filmed/acted) mood piece, with the director’s touches elevating material that sometimes feels derivative, perhaps even silly.

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  51. Excellent. Exactly my thoughts regarding the ridiculous star concept …And that is why I love your works and read only your articles. Please keep it up.

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  52. You have a valid point there but a solution though expensive is very simple that i have applied for myself and it works for me- Watch every film on day one before any critic does. Its the ultimate way to remain unbiased and opinionated. If I cant make it on day one, and even though rangan is careful about spoilers, I still ensure to read his articles after I have watched the film. If not all, this can be at least applied for films that are potentially worthy … again choosing the worthy ones is ” to each his own”.

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  53. “Just because I say a film is good, it doesn’t follow that you’re going to find it good as well. So my “verdict” is ultimately meaningless to anyone but me.”

    Those are Truly Golden Words . Every single individual should understand the seriousness of the fact that 1) that a critic is also a human being like anyone else and 2) Films are suibjective by nature and appeal differently to different individuals. Especially with a twisted subject an dtwisted presentation like Talaash is, the opinion gap can only widen.

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  54. BR, good observations as usual. I was also satisfied with the film because prior to watching I had gotten into my head that it was about a father coming to terms with loss of a son. So I wasn’t disappointed that there was no suspense.

    But did Aamir Khan bring anything to the film? The two leading ladies were competent and NS was outstanding but AK appeared to me to be sleepwalking through the second half:-) Maybe he lost interest in the movie? And I am a fan of AK’s acting so I was disappointed on this front.

    Second, is it me or does the movie reeks strongly of Sixth Sense? I have now resigned to Indian directors stealing but I would prefer if they don’t go around claiming credit for the script and how they worked on it for 5-10-15 years. But as a critic, I rarely see you touch upon this pilfering aspect. Is it a conscious decision to avoid rapping directors for theft?

    Re the mirror part, the real red herring (or sloppy direction) is Kareena’s variety of costumes. In Sixth Sense, Bruce Willis wears the same blue short he was shot in (albeit usually covered by coats). But here Kareena indulges in kitschy wear to her heart’s content.

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  55. *Spoilers* I went in expecting a thrilling, what-happens-next kind of movie and was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. I loved the twist! And boy, did it hurt when Timur was shot! I was telling my friend I hope he doesn’t die like in Peepli Live but alas my prayers came to nought.

    The “silly” aspect that Rangan mentioned, I think that’s Kagti’s style. I love the way the supernatural is worked into her story. In that way, Talaash is similar to Honeymoon Travels, where u have the superhero couple. When you’re watching a movie that feels real and suddenly something so explicitly “unreal” comes up, for a few moments, you don’t know how to react. I think that’s what Kagti is after.

    @Rangan: The only south Indian in the film dies of AIDS. Anything tongue-in-cheek there? (given that there’s always some dig or the other in Bollywood films that we south indians have to sit through)

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  56. Very interesting movie. The ending came as a total surprise for me. In fact, more surprises came when I started thinking from scratch. People complain the logical flaws in the movie. But my opinion is that they were intentional. You have all big brains like Zoya Akthar, Anurag Kashyap and Aamir Khan. Would they not have thought about this? The flaws and the glitches are intended to confuse the viewer. The ending need to be necessarily believed either. It could all just be a dream. Nawazuddin Siddiqui > Kareena Kapoor > Rani Mukherji > Aamir Khan, this is what I felt about the acting.

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  57. Saw Talaash last night. ( Spoilers galore ahead. Don’t read on if you haven’t seen the film)

    And I am afraid this ghost business spoilt it for me totally.

    The God business spoilt Jab Tak Hai Jaan , but then there was nothing much right in the film to spoil and I had mentally switched myself off from it after first ten minutes or so. The God business spoilt Life of Pi for me too, but then the God line comes only in the beginning and end of the film and thankfully, the main narrative tract of the film is not contaminated by the corny and glib validation in the belief of God. So the tale of the boy , the tiger and the sea could be enjoyed as a great cinematic achievement.

    Talaash is different.

    It had so much going for it. Right from the first frame with the hobo, the stray dog who foretold the chronicle of a death, the crazed car diving headlong into the sea.. and the striking opening scene segueing into the night lights of Mumbai streets, the film looks seductively dark.

    The cop with a troubled past, the hooker with a mysterious aura, the grief-stricken wife being sucked into the succor of séance sessions and the colourful denizens of the Mumbai red light area caught up in their acts of deceit, double-dealing and debauchery set up a drama that thankfully unfolds languorously like a delicious slow acting drug.
    Things are a little listless after the interval but the narrative gathers its wits and speed once again, as Inspector Sekhawat begins to get even more unhinged , Taimur gets shot and Rosy begins to look even more seductive than before.

    That’s when the ghost thing happens.

    Now I have no problem with either God or ghosts in films. Oh My God was wonderful. So was Sixth Sense and The Other. But being entities that are outside the pale of normal human phenomenon , God and ghosts call for special handling. You cannot use them to work out resolutions to dramas set in pure human terms. It takes the genius of Shyamalan to write something like The Sixth Sense.. . and make it work. But my problem with Talaash is not about reaching that level ( How many films since then have?) . My grouse with the ghist elemnent in the film is that it is a total cop out. And mixing this supernatural business with the wonderful police procedure drama, the noir atmosphere and the human story of coping with loss and guilt was to me as aesthetically revolting to me as the mixing of that Alzheimer angle to the simple story of a teacher teaching a blind girl to learn. In my book, it’s not done.

    Look at the damage.

    The film had a number of things going for it. The noir atmosphere of Mumbai was so well established. There were this seedy characters like Shashi and Taimur, Madam and Mallika involved with a seedy drama of murder and blackmail. There was a payoff to be had. There was the story of the parents o had lost their son, the father being doubly afflicted, by grief as well as guilt. There is payoff to be had in the resolution of their story. And it comes in the brilliant letter from the dead absolving ‘dadda’ of all guilt.. But our savouring of these payoff is interfered with by this cheap gimmick.

    I call this a cheap gimmick even though Kareena is wonderful as Rosie and her appearance in the car and as the mermaid saving Sekhawat under water is appropriately spooky and poetic . Because this wronged woman’s ghost seeking revenge upon the wrongdoers is at its core a B-grade Hindi film cliché. And there has not much been done to elevate it to anything of a higher level. Now amnesia is another stupid Hindi film cliché and it rightfully belongs in a third rate film like Jab Tak Hai Jaan. But look at how it was elevated in a film like Ghajini. With all those notes stuck all over the wall, all those body tattoos and all the detailing in the process of searching for the culprit it creates an engaging cinematic paradigm. The physiognomy of Aamir Khan with his bald head gives the talea texture. And of course he does not get back his memory by another blow or something. The amnesia of Ghajini does not remind you of the amnesiacs of earlier Rajendra Kumar or Sunil Dutt films. The avenging fallen woman in Talaash and the template of her revenge on the other hand is not much different from those seen Ramsay Brother’s films. (I am not talking of the films as a whole but just this ghost element. ) It’s a kind of imaginatively challenged script solution.

    I feel angry because there was so much mythical and metaphorical riches to be mined here if the script had just played it straight. Like when Rosie says , “ We are invisible. So how can we disappear.

    ? ” and all atht it implies. There was this water angle for Sekhawat..his son drowning and his own last minute escape from under water. There was this delicious irony of a superstar getting caught up in this hooker business. One did not need a ghost to bring it all together.

    I played it in mind many times after I walked out of the hall ( That’s why I am writing it today instead of yesterday.) How it could have been done different. My ground rules for using the supernatural are three simple ones. One: You set your story in a world a little removed from the ordinary and base the story largely around the supernatural…don’t mix it up with other flavours. Two: If you are setting it up in a more normal setting, give scope for ambiguity. With room for a possible rational explanation as well. Three : Use it as a little aside, without affecting the main narrative too much ( Like Ang Lee did in Life of Pi . Or even better, like Reema herself did in Honeymoon Travels.). What I did not like at all is Rosie helping Sekhwat with actual solving of the case by informing about Arman Kapoor and Nikhil visiting Hotel Lido. If she had to be there as ghost, her interaction with Sekhawat had to be more ethereal, she not speaking too much or giving any actual information , making it possible for us to explain it as a hallucinatory image born out of Sekhawat’s stressed mind. ( The séance thing lends itself to such a rational explanation. The Shernaz character could be just making it all up after finding bits of information by talking with Roshni and snooping around… and using her knowledge of human psychology.) A second alternative could be to have Rosie as a real character…a friend of Simran, a twin sister, whatever. And she could devise ways of killing people through perfectly human means..if a fly could, surely a woman can. Here I would create little more palpable sexual chemistry between Rosie and Sekhawat, giving more meat to Roshni’s assertion that he was having an affair. He would pull back just in time ..triggered by some form of memory of his dead son..and water. That would also provide a break from the single note performance that the script has confined Aamir to ( though I must say, he is wonderfully in character throughout.) I would perhaps create another strand of narrative, making Sekhawat involved with the murky world of red light Mumbai in his younger days. And I would end it with Sekhawat getting rid of all his demons and willing to concede to Roshnis desire for having another baby. The film is dark. But there is a promise of a brand new day at the end of it.

    But then I am not the scriptwriter and only the viewer of the film. So did I like it? Not quite. But then I am not the scriptwriter and only the viewer of the film. So did I like it? Not quite. ( Apart from the ghost angle, I thought the listless manner in which the mystery was unravelled in the second half lacked tension and control.) Will I see it again? Absolutely. And perhaps a couple of more times. Because right until the ghost revelation, it is a delicious film viewing experience. I liked Nawajuddin performance so much.. and also that of Kareena. I liked the whole atmosphere at the Madam’s establishment. I liked the collision of this seedy world with that of the genteel Sekhawat and the respectable Surjan. Was glad for the privilege of entering the world of Mallika and Shashi. I liked Mumbai by night as captured in the film. It was James Ellroy. It was Murakami. I loved the moody music conjured by Ram Sampat..all of them.. Jee Le Zaaraa more than others perhaps.

    And I loved Aamir Khan for making this film…. for not playing it safe, for showing Bollywood how superstars need not take on only parts of super heroes, and how they need to be in every frame with concocted double roles, or singing dancing fighting and providing variety entertainment, instead of just playing a character and being a part of sincere, passionate storytelling.

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  58. sai16vicky: “People complain the logical flaws in the movie. But my opinion is that they were intentional. You have all big brains like Zoya Akthar, Anurag Kashyap and Aamir Khan. Would they not have thought about this?” — By this logic, no big filmmaker/musician can ever have a bad day, no? We can say everything is “intentional.”

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  59. Maybe it is just ‘interpretation’ and not ‘intention’?

    I am more than a 100% sure that for more than half the movies you’ve reviewed, most of what you point out as being meaningful, profound or beautiful or touching is just what your eyes give us, more than intention of the director himself/herself. Like how movies become more beautiful after reading your reviews than watching the movie itself many times.

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  60. Tina: It is my fervent belief that only when we rid ourselves of the baggage of “creator’s intent” will we able to truly discuss art — movies, music, whatever — and throw ourselves into this discussion. All that I try to do in my reviews is exactly what you say, give you a look “through my eyes” — nothing more, nothing less. If anyone’s here to find out what Reema Kagti was thinking of while making “Talaash,” they should be talking to her instead.

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  61. Except fantacy all other movies taken shall contain the logical move; may it is said that ,not that man failed, not that woman believed it to be true, not that man fell a prey etc , to justify the the senseless move. Movie is amedium which is not a mere entertainment but also paves certain codes for people in the darkness. Just for thrill or suspense ,scenes of senseless scenes ,shall not be added. In Vettaiyadu vilaiyadu, a pre-doctor accidental psycho, travels all the way killing bunch of people ,hodwinking the american as well as an officer who is introduced as 2nd to none–is it sensible? As a matter of fact SONG SEQUENCES IN INDIAN MOVIES ARE PEREPOSTROUS[ there can be musical movie; movie about singers real or imaginery; but not songs in apolice story. Shakespearre wrote ” STUPIDITY THY NAME IS WOMEN”And one can substitute or fill in the blank. I dont discuss about current majority Hindi movies because there are more unrealities than other languages.i

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  62. Ha ha. That was a good one. But Aamir has been pretty careful with his ventures right from “Rang De Basanti”. To be very frank, I am not able to admit the fact that Aamir can ever go wrong.

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  63. Finally got to see the movie. I was intrigued by the discussion here – some very good points but in general it seemed like people had issues with the paranormal aspect – the way it was handled and also the end. I can call myself a movie buff though can’t get to the movies as much as I would like. With that backdrop, I enjoyed the movie, liked the mood and the way it was shot. The film with its losing one’s kid theme , in the wake of connecticutt shooting tragedy, and the fact that I have young kids, took a special meaning and hit hard. Everyone is obviously entitled to their views, and most of the opinions out here are from people who are passionate about movies but I feel there is too much analysing and putting down of the above mentioned aspects of the movie (don’t get me wrong – that’s what I love about BR’s reviews and subsequent discussions). I understand that Aamir Khan brings a certain level of expectations, but I would take this any day over the nonsense dished out. As one of the comments said, you have to give some leeway for the suspension of disbelief, and ‘enjoy’ the movie. I mean the scene where Suri is going over and over what he could have done different to prevent his son’s death felt so real to me. And yes, Nawazuddin Siddique was brilliant, I thought. I also agree with BR on Rani Mukherjee’s freckles and minimal make-up use – she looks simple and beautiful.

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  64. I wonder…
    1. why the police did not check shashi’s home? they went there and asked his GF abt his where-abt but did not bother to look for anything in the home. Later, temur gets the green bag from there very easily and even he did not went there earlier to get the bag even after he saw shashi keeping something there.
    2. the dead actor’s accountant gave 10 lacs 3 years back. then shashi did not demand anything for 3 years.

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  65. (And what a relief it is that she’s left out of the closing portions, with only her handiwork driving the final scene – again by the water.) — seriously I would have thrown up if Suri had to go back to the medium!

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