Reflections on TALAASH (Hindi, 2012)
Aamir Khans association with Excel Entertainment began with Farhan AKhtars path-breaking DIL CHAHTA HAI. Their latest collaboration TALAASH (director by Reema Kagti of HONEYMOON TRAVELS LTD) is in some ways, the total opposite of the world embodied by DIL CHAHTA HAI.
A slow-burning murder mystery where all is not that meets the eye, Kagti takes inspiration from films like THE SIXTH SENSE, STIR OF ECHOES, THE PLEDGE and countless other Hollywood films but makes an original effort. The plot revolves around Aamir Khan, who plays a burnt-out cop investigating a case where none of the clues add up. His home life is on a downward spiral with his inability to deal with the loss of his son and he immerses himself in the case to avoid confronting the issues with his wife (Rani Mukherji). His investigation brings him in touch with a set of characters living in the fringes of the red light districts in Mumbai as he delves himself into the case further to uncover the truth. When a new neighbour movies in next door claiming to have interacted with Aamir’s dead son, all is not what meets the eye.
Like Khan’s previous attempt DHOBI GHAT, TALAASH isn’t a film that fits easily in the mainstream of Hindi cinema. It would’ve been an effort for any other actor/director/producer to see this film get close to the 100 CR mark. Reemas style is an instant throwback to the noir films that came out in the 40’s and 50’s. At times, the nature of the investigation, and the unravelling of the plot as well as the slow-burner pace, reminds one of Curtis Hanson’s edgy L.A CONFIDENTIAL and David Finchers ZODIAC. The pacing is uneven at times, and really slows down towards the middle but never enough to bore the viewer or lose interest. Those who are avid watchers of Hollywood films will certainly find a number of reference points, story arcs and plot twists that have been witnessed before, but the other masterstroke of TALAASH is to see the story set in a new milieu and setting, with a new directors sensibilities and new actors.
Aamir Khan dominates the screen in every frame. In an era of over-glamorized cops who are larger-than-life in the “overman” mode (SINGHAM, DABANGG) it’s refreshing to see Aamir play the part with utmost restrained and realism. Khans enigmatic screen presence and get-up hits the right mark, and this is easily one of his most effective performances to date. In a strange way Aamir has completed a trio of films, all inherently different in their respective genre’s, but all dealing with the issue of “memory loss” (GHAJINI, DHOBI GHAT, TALAASH). In a year where Shahrukh Khan has JAB TAK HAI JAAN and Salman Khan has DABANGG 2, Aamir Khan again shows why he’s a class apart.
Rani Mukherji is stunning and leaves her mark. Her moments and scenes with Aamir Khan reminds us again what a talented and under-utilized actress she is. Kareena Kapoor shines in her part reprising a similar part to what she did in CHAMELI with aplomb. Nawazzuddin Sidiqui completes a hat-trick after GANGS OF WASSEYPUR and KAHAANI with another chameleon-like performance. His Tehmur is a poignant portrayal which pays more than an apt tribute to Mazhar Khan’s legendary act Abdul in SHAAN.
TALAASH may not necessarily be an easy watch, nor is it one that the viewer can easily get in the mood to watch, however it’s a rewarding film which deserves more than one watch to pick up the fragmented pieces of the plot twist after the film finishes. 2012 has given us a large number of interesting films, however TALAASH, IMO, remains the finest film of the year despite its flaws.
Prashant Harish Hari