Summary: Reema Kagti carelessly places her directorial hands over Talaash’s genre-confused body, resulting in an impotent snooze-fest instead of a sensational cinematic orgasm
Plot: Surjit Singh is a cop who investigates the death of Armaan Kapoor, a popular actor. The investigation leads Surjit not just into the underbelly of Bombay – the brothel life, the pimps and the prostitutes but also into his own past, involving the death of his child in a similar manner. Thus, by solving the case with the help of a mysterious prostitute named Rosy, he not only shall gain credit at work but also gain a resolution to his sterile marriage life with Shreya as the couple bear the weight of the guilt of losing their child.
Talaash should not have begun the way it did. The opening sequence of a car unexpectedly losing control and crashing into the sea gives us a wrong impression of what we as audience members should place focus on. The next shot of Aamir Khan dressed up as a policeman, putting on a thickset mustache and visible frown, approaching the crime scene in his police jeep puts us under the impression that we are about to see a pure fast-paced crime thriller with little focus on the protagonist’s own personal problems; generally, most crime thrillers add some depth to the protagonist by adding a minor side plot which involves the character getting some form of personal resolution by the end of the story, but this would not take up much of the screen time.
We also learn that a pimp has some pecuniary involvement with the dead celebrity who was alone in the car that crashed into the sea, and that the case shall involve the brothel home. In a well shot sequence, we see alternating shots of Surjeet Singh (the character played by Aamir Khan) testing how the incident must’ve taken place, by driving the car in a similar manner (except he does apply the brakes at the right time) and a repeated shot of the car crash. We witness many interrogations taken by him with the family members, prostitutes, dealers and well… two guys but I’ve completely forgotten what those interrogations were for. There are many CID like establishment shots of buildings which gradually begin to annoy (why always show a tilting shot of the building where the action is to take place, just cut to the chase). All this puts us on one track, and we expect the side plot involving Surjeet Singh, his wife Shreya (played by Rani Mukherjee) and their late son to settle comfortably at the back, only to appear at certain moments adding a balanced parallelism between the present case and the past incident.
Now the film does an egregious error of switching tracks without a warning: the focus is shifted to the couple’s loveless marriage life after the boating incident involving their son. The main issue here is that we are actually supposed to take the ludicrous scenes between Shreya and the medium Frenny played by Shernaz Patel as scenes of crucial importance. Shernaz does an impression of Frenny which reminded me a bit of that villain from Troll 2, in fact she too bakes a pie for Shreya just like that character baked one in Troll 2. And with the kind of dialogs that she was given (hackneyed), the character of Frenny did not seem like one to pay much attention to; I thought at first she might’ve been some reporter trying to extract information about the case or (a little far-fetched) that Surjit’s son was actually alive and with Frenny. The marriage issue takes up much of the time till the interval, inter-cut with some dull conversations of Surjit with a mysterious prostitute Rosy played blandly by Kareena Kapoor. By then, the audience is not sure what it’s supposed to concentrate on – what is the talaash for?
Post-intermission, you watch some chase sequences, very less suspense and unnecessary subplots. The twist that the whole world’s talking about (not really) made me think like this ‘Oh… does it really matter when the case itself is given such a poor treatment and the plot discontinuity is so awkward? Couldn’t this movie have the same twist but with much more focus on the case, and a case worth giving much focus to? Really… I see a bit of Sixth Sense, Japanese movie Odishon, flop film Madhoshi and maybe some others but I don’t remember them now. Hell, this was not worth the hype at all – this is definitely a ‘first’ for an Indian psychological neo-noir crime drama, but nothing groundbreaking for the genres that it falls under. Even with the plot, script etc remaining the same, this could have been more tolerable with a different cast.’
I read Shubhra Gupta’s review in Indian Express and she has precisely said the same thing that came to my mind watching Aamir Khan’s performance: ‘His frown could have relaxed a bit’. You get ‘forehead Surjit Singh’ all the time as you eyes wander again and again to the frown that never lightens up, staying tight as if it’s been plastered unmovable. Kareena’s dialogs and inane and she makes Rosy sound dry and boring – an ‘I’m bored so I’m saying these lines’ kind of prostitute. However, her dry delivery works in one scene, probably the only seen where my attention was drawn to the subjects than the popcorn I was munching – it happens when she mirthlessly talks about the invisible lives of prostitutes. Rani isn’t totally invested in her character, and we feel absolutely nothing for her when she berates Surjit out of frustration. Because the case of Armaan’s death itself has less importance, I felt unable to get all the drama that was happening in the brothel and it’s sad because Nawazzudin’s efforts fail as his character doesn’t matter to me (this isn’t his fault).
Talaash fails in concocting the different genres – it add too much of one and too little of the other.