Caught in the Act!
The ubiquitous Bollywood cop role. Salman Khan showed how to make a blockbuster playing one in Dabangg, which spearheaded his series of hit after hit from the year 2010, before others such as Abhishek Bachchan, John Abraham, Ajay Devgn all jumped on the bandwagon playing no-nonsense cops in that khaki-brown uniform. Having been absent from the big screen for close to two years now since Mumbai Diaries, it's been years since he last played a cop, and Mr Perfectionist himself Aamir Khan now returns to playing a law enforcer sporting a handsomely thick mustache, and you can be just about sure the choice of his project has that uniqueness, that you're in for quite the spectacle.
Talaash boasts the involvement of Anurag Kashyap and Farhan Akhtar writing its dialogues, from a story written by sister Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti, the latter taking up directing duties as well. It's a story that deals with pain and reconciliation, wrapped around a police investigations surrounding the mysterious car accident of a famed Bollywood actor, which opened up a Pandora's Box of blackmail, secret rendezvous, femme fatales and cheap prostitutes, and as Aamir himself puts it, is more of a suspense than a thriller.
The film opens to a jazzy opening credits tune Muskaanein Jhooti Hai, before we bear witness to the aforementioned car accident and death of a famous actor, which is mysterious in circumstances as we bear witness to the car's travelling late at night in the city's seedier side, before an inexplicable swerve, followed by an accelerated plunge into the sea. A high profile investigation begins, headed by Inspector Surjan Shekhawat (Aamir Khan), with clues being set up very quickly for the audience, but yes, we know these little teases in principle characters are nothing more than to prep us for what lies beneath with more than meets the eye.
But the irony is that even this investigations is nothing more than a front for the more dramatic story that Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar want to tell. Surjan and his wife Roshhni are very much estranged, no thanks to the tragic death of their son in a boating accident that can very much be attributed to the negligence of both parents. Both of them take responsibility and deal with their loss in the most personal of terms, one in immersing himself in his job, while the other relies of psychiatric help and modern medicine, before turning to the spiritual in order to find inner peace, much to the chagrin of Surjan. It's been some time since we last saw Aamir pair up with Rani Mukherjee, and their scenes together evoke much of the emotions filling up Talaash, making it fabulously gloomy with an air of sadness all round as they grapple with their emotions. The Jee Le Zaraa by Vishal Dadlani perfectly encapsulates this, and unequivocally my favourite song from the film.
Then there's the other pairing with Aamir Khan and his 3 Idiots co-star Kareena Kapoor, who plays the prostitute Rosie, whom Surjan finds solace in, and their relationship bordering on the will-he-or-wouldn't-he, especially since they grow closer, and the cop starting to confide a lot more personal feelings with her. She's someone who can provide clues and leads in his investigations, but this professional relationship becomes quite compromised, and having Kapoor play the seductress who tempts, allows for temperatures to be raised especially since the visuals just seem to love capturing her at her best angles. While Kareena may have turned up the va-va-voom factor by many notches, my vote goes to Rani Mukherjee for her very daring plain jane getup, sans makeup for the most parts, in order to play a mother in mourning, and for that inability to reconnect with her husband.
Reema Kagti's film provided a balance with romanticized moments and hard hitting reality in its visuals, capturing the underbelly of society that Surjan has to delve into for leads, and introducing us to those who will seize opportunities to break out of their rut. There's a subplot involving a suspect's personal runner which highlights how desperation drives those who have not, to try and get the better of those who have, with great risks involved. And Talaash has that mesh of genres put together in pure Bollywood fashion, making it appeal at least in parts to a broad spectrum of audiences, with suspense, the supernatural, investigative drama and relationships taking turns to put their imprint on the narrative.
I've developed that trust and leap of faith with Aamir Khan and his choice of productions to work in, and Talaash is that perfect welcome to return in a leading role, ably supported by Kareena Kapoor and almost being upstaged by Rani Mukherjee in her stereotype-busting turn. A strong emotional core to the story also helped to lift this beyond the many mediocre productions of late, and goes to show that when Bollywood gets its act together, it's a force to be reckoned with, and a delight for any audience anywhere to experience. Highly recommended!