Talaash (Search): Film Review

Talaash Film Still - H 2012
Indian thriller surprises with emotional depth and a twist ending.

Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan plays a top cop in Mumbai working to crack an unsolvable case in Reema Kagti's thriller.

Some thrillers are described as taut. Talaash isn’t taut, but loose and messy, the better to allow life’s jagged edges to disturb the muscular, controlled world that its protagonist, Surjan “Suri” Shekhawat, has created for himself. When those inevitable cracks appear in Suri’s world, the film grabs on tight and doesn’t let go.

Aamir Khan, Talaash’s star and co-producer with Ritesh Sidhwani and Farhan Akhtar, will reap both accolades and revenues from this unapologetically emotional suspense film, eagerly awaited by audiences as Khan’s return to the big screen since the 3 Idiots star’s recent turn as the activist reality show host of the hard-hitting nonfiction Indian TV show Satyamev Jayate (Truth Alone Prevails), which shines some of Khan’s star power on pressing Indian social issues.

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Now, the challenge is to keep a lid on the film’s twist ending. Khan has taken to Twitter and Facebook urging viewers: “please don’t let out the suspense!”

A top cop in Mumbai, Suri (Khan) is working to solve a crime that his colleagues say is “A-Final,” or unsolvable: at 4 a.m. a luxury car driven by a Bollywood star careened down Seaface Road, swerved right and crashed through a barrier to splash into the Arabian Sea, killing the actor.

As Suri investigates the death, which took place near a red-light district, he is drawn into the intrigue and secrets of its whores, pimps and drug addicts, most strikingly the mysterious prostitute Rosie (Kareena Kapoor) and the ambitious, crippled Tehmur (Nawazuddin Siddiqui).

Suri pours himself into his work partly to avoid his wife Shreya (Rani Mukerji), who though beautiful, loving and patient, nevertheless reminds Suri of the ache caused by the death of the couple’s 8-year-old son. Shreya and Suri cope with the pain in dramatically different ways: she finds comfort by talking to a psychic, while he scorns the supernatural and tamps down his grief.

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Under the direction of the perceptive Reema Kagti (Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd.), who has assisted leading modern filmmakers Zoya Akhtar and Farhan Akhtar, performances are strong throughout, and the pacing of the film moves easily from the intimacy of Suri’s home life to the urgency of action scenes set on city streets and even on a busy Mumbai commuter train. Additional dialogue by Farhan Akhtar and Anurag Kashyap adds heft to Kagti and Zoya Akhtar’s screenplay.

Khan is an actor-turned-director (the excellent Taare Zameen Par/Like Stars on Earth) with memorable starring roles in the Oscar-nominated Lagaan, the festival charmer Mumbai Diaries and the blockbuster comedy 3 Idiots. Cerebral, quick-talking roles like this are his specialty, but toward the end of this film, a cathartic scene in which he comes face-to-face with his grief leaves the greatest impact.

Kapoor -- who co-starred in 3 Idiots and shares an attractive rapport with Khan -- shows a new depth in the role of a prostitute who is just a bit too glossy for her squalid surroundings (the reason for this becomes clear). Mukerji (No One Killed Jessica) is warm, inviting and real; while Siddiqui, who has enjoyed exposure to Western audiences in festival films such as Gangs of Wasseypur and Peepli Live, menaces in the role of a grown son of a prostitute who will do anything to escape that world.

Opens: Nov. 30, 2012

Cast: Aamir Khan, Rani Mukerji, Kareena Kapoor, Nawazuddin Siddiqui

Director: Reema Kagti

Screenwriters: Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti

Producers; Ritesh Sidhwani, Aamir Khan, and Farhan Akhtar

Executive producer: Vikesh Bhutani

Director of photography: Mohanan

Production designer: Sharmishta Roy

Music: Ram Sampath

Sound Designer: P.M. Satheesh

Lyrics: Javed Akhtar

Editor: Anand Subaya

Unrated, 139 minutes