Two parallel tracks merge in Reema Kagti’s supernatural thriller ‘Talaash’. Aamir Khan and Rani Mukherji play parents grieving the tragic and untimely death of their young son.
The tragedy has created a vast canyon between them as they privately mourn, blame and heal.
But Khan’s character, the insomniac Inspector Shekhawat has a day job, which demands his attention, especially when the high profile and mysterious death of an actor, who seemingly drives himself off the road into the sea, becomes his case.
Investigation into the death takes Shekhawat into the noir world of commercial sex workers, pimps and sundry characters who dream of escaping from this hell on earth. K. U. Mohanan’s brilliant cinematography enhances these disparate worlds – of a quiet and hurting middle class home and a pulsating and dark red light district.
In these lanes Shekhawat meets the flirty and flamboyant Rosy (Kareena Kapoor), a prostitute who helps him navigate this world. While the three leads are remarkable in each of their parts, Mukherji deserves mention for returning to form and touching the viewer with the pain of a mother who has lost her child and fears losing her husband too.
Khan takes some time settling into an emotionally complex role, a far cry from the less layered parts in ‘Rang De Basanti’, ‘3 Idiots’ or ‘Ghajini’. But when he does get his groove, he does so with quiet surety. The scenes between him and Kapoor are most effective.
The weakness is the supporting cast, which tends to overdo its part (e.g the brothel madam, the obviously shifty best friend, the Parsi neighbour, the cops in the station). The exceptions are Nawazuddin Siddiqui who sparkles as the local hustler who bites off more than he can chew, and Rajkumar Yadav who makes the most of the spartan role of a cop.
Another weakness is the pace. For a thriller, the narrative tends to slow down irregularly, mostly to make room for Shekhawat’s emotional distress. Unlike other Bollywood movies in this genre, Kagti uses the songs to push along the narrative, or give it breathing space.
Kagti and Zoya Akhtar’s screenplay is given life by Farhan Akhtar and Anurag Kashyap’s dialogues, Mohanan’s photography and P.M. Satheesh’s sound design. The action scenes by Abbas Ali Moghul and Dave Judge are well crafted.
To Kagti’s credit, she uses silence to establish her characters’ pain, pushed along by the background music. She steadily and neatly builds the suspense, but once you solve the twist in the tale, there are few surprises to follow. Talaash follows the supernatural thriller formula meticulously, repackages it and imbues it with an emotional layer that will surely move you.