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Talaash is more an emotional drama than a thriller. This mixing of genre works but only towards the climax. Through the first half though I found myself pushing myself to like the film. It stays at 'just a good film' when it could've been so much more.
Talaash springs in a surprise. Not in a thriller sort-of a way. But by being more about its characters than the overall story. You don't really expect a film about a mysterious accident to be much more about how deeply damaged the protagonists are and how each one is trying to bring peace to the soul within. Given that, you still come out feeling you didn't know the characters well enough.
Talaash leans too heavily on the typical assumptions you are going to make about characters given their situations. A stern police officer who has lost a dear one will behave in a particular manner. A mourning young mother is forlorn. It gives you this much in the first few minutes and adds no more. And a lot of what goes on in the story that these characters weave together is known from the promos itself.
Yet again, the promos, and overall marketing in general, of a film takes expectations in a different direction, a direction that is detrimental to the film. It is sort-of cheating calling Talaash a thriller or even a psychological thriller. For want of a better phrase let me coin 'emotional thriller' which seems to fit the bill better. Had the trailers and synopsis hinted towards the heavy emotional bent to the film, I wouldn't have spent the first half looking for the thrill. And once again, I realise how little weight the pre-release material of a film deserves. Lesson learnt.
Anyways, once I figured that Talaash isn't really going to bring the thrill in a hurry, I settled down to the pace of the film. Slowly, the pace grows on you even though the story it unfolds never ever really grips you from the core. This is mainly due to the many threads opened in the first half. Is it about the accident/murder? Is it about a police officer's personal trauma? Is it about his wife's mental health? Is it about the prostitutes and their palpable conditions? Is it about an enigmatic prostitute? Well, it ends up being about all of them, but the pieces don't come together seamlessly. Also, it constantly felt like they wanted to keep things subtle but got scared into spelling things out, just in case the audience doesn't 'get it'.
I do understand, a thriller needs to send its audience off in many directions to keep them distracted from what's really happening. But, the weightage each of these threads gets in the first half, does injustice to all of them. None of the sub-plots take you deeper into the characters or their situations. They all stay at a superficial level.
What actually keeps you going are the performances. For a change, Aamir Khan is more Surjan Shekhawat than Aamir Khan. The only times I was reminded of the star was when he addressed his superior who looked younger than him as 'Sir'. It just felt off. To director, Reema Kagti's credit, the film is not overwhelmed by his presence. Or that of Kareena Kapoor's. She plays the teasing prostitute who has a mysterious aura about her with elegance. Rani Mukerji has a short but powerful presence. On the other hand, Raj Kumar Yadav and Nawazuddin Siddiqui entertain and create intrigue respectively. I still would prefer seeing them in films that are more about their characters.
And as far as the twist in the tale goes, you can make a fair guess from the promos, a guess that is confirmed about 20 minutes into the second half. But it is pretty cool that you are still a little away from the whole truth. What I found amusing is that had this been a non-Indian film, the 'whole truth' would have been apparent a lot earlier. Now before I relent to the temptation of naming one particular psychological thriller from Hollywood that will give the movie away, let me move away from the twist.
Yet, this is what won me over. I have always enjoyed stories that have a climax that gives the film more meaning than what it seemed about. In clarification, many films lose the plot in the last half hour and take away everything that they had build up till then. Whereas Talaash takes the entire goose chase to a deeper level. A level I hadn't seen coming mainly because I didn't think I'd see it in a Hindi film. I'm so used to disconnected dots staying so in films we generate.
Unfortunately, the chase is rendered pretty much pointless, because it is not about the apparent chase at all. Talaash is a game of hide-and-seek that characters play with themselves. It is more an emotional tale of a police officer, a responsible father's need for catharsis, about the closure he deserves. Which is why, it seems like a film that could have meant so much more. That could have connected so much more deeply than just having a funky climax, that uses voice-overs of scenes we saw earlier to spoon-feed us.
Also, doesn't a film talking about such philosophical, psychological and emotional stuff need much more profound and powerful dialogue? All this one has is dialogue that are too obviously metaphorical.
So, despite performances that make stars look like humans, despite some awesome production design and camera-work, despite having potential to play tricks on the mind that the audience would enjoy figuring out, despite being more than what is obvious, Talaash remains just a good film.
- meetu, a part of the audience
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