For the past decade, an Aamir Khan release has been one of the most anticipated events every year, like Valentine's Day, or maybe your birthday. The buzz around his movies starts nearly a year or two before the release. Plots are discussed, the cast is dissected, and every known aspect of the movie is poked and prodded.
The hype may owe itself to the fact that Aamir Khan is an anomaly in this country - an intellectual Bollywood superstar. Or maybe it is because he doesn't bombard us with movie after movie. It could even be that his personal life is usually so far away from the limelight that (mom tells me this wasn't the status quo earlier), most of the time, the only thing people can discuss about him is his work (smart, that!).
Whatever maybe the reason, Talaash justifies every bit of its hype, and then some. Strangely devoid of "action" (read: blood and gore and super-human feats), Talaash is a suspense-thriller in the true sense of the phrase, the sort you grew up watching in C.I.D and Aahat.
The movie unfolds like this. When beloved actor Armaan Kapoor (Vivan Bhatena) dies under mysterious circumstances, the incident leaves everyone stumped, including Inspector Surjan Singh Shekhawat (Aamir Khan). Upon scratching the surface of the case, it turns out that things weren't as straightforward as they seemed, and Surjan, a.k.a. Suri, is sucked relentlessly into the sordid atrophy in Mumbai's underbelly that is prostitution, blackmail, murder and everything not-so-nice.
Pretty soon, he's hobnobbing with dazzling dames of the night, pimps and other unsavory characters. And, as unlikely as it seems, he strikes up an unwilling friendship with a spirited young hussy who goes by the name of Rosie (Kareena Kapoor).
Meanwhile, he and his wife Roshni (Rani Mukherji) are still grappling with the sudden loss of their young son Karan, which is driving them inexorably apart even as they try to make a fresh start in an apartment complex in suburban Mumbai. Being married to a cop isn't the easiest of things. And when that cop starts becoming the epitome of uncommunicative, Roshni tries to find solace wherever she can. In this case, it is with a professed medium or channel or whatever, Frenny (Shernaz Patel), who claims to have spoken to their son and has a message from him.
A marriage that is heading towards an impasse and his unresolved guilt issues make Suri even more determined to solve the case.
At approximately two-and-a-half hours, this mystery is tightly drawn, with little room for long-drawn discourse or introspection or even blood-fests. Talaash firmly establishes itself as a good 'ol brain-teaser right from the start.
At the same time, the makers' infatuation with the city of Mumbai is seamlessly inculcated into every aspect of the screenplay, whether it be the elaborate colony functions, or the quirky Catholic neighbours, or even the Bandra elite who never go outside of Bandra unless absolutely necessary. Not to mention the slang, and the flinty fatalism with which Mumbaikars of the metropolis' infamous slums face day-to-day life.
The climax doesn't quite match up to the tension the story builds in you. The smarts apparent in the the rest of the movie just peter out to the most obvious ending.
A round-of-applause to the director is Kareena's surprisingly subtle performance as a woman of the night with a heart of 24-karat-gold. Even though the rapport between Rosie and Suri isn't quite convincing, Kareena somehow makes it work, and it all makes sense towards the end.
Aamir Khan, as usual, brings all of his earnestness into the character he plays, so much so that the events in Suri's life are of eminent importance to the audience, and you end up really caring about his fate rather than that of just the case. Rani's performance as a mother dealing with the loss of her child and an emotionally distant husband is near-flawless.
The stellar supporting cast needs a special mention, including Shernaz Patel as the slightly kooky neighbour, Raj Kumar Yadav as the cops' sidekick, and all the others without whom the movie would've been a lot less engaging.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui deserves his own paragraph. As Tehmun, the pimp with a limp (heh), he makes you root for him even as you see just how much of a low-life he is. Siddiqui's thespic acumen, as he merges into the role until you know not where the role begins and the man ends, is a treasure to the film industry.
Whether it is family fun-time you're looking for, or the privilege of watching Aamir Khan on that big screen, or just a damn fine movie; Talaash satiates on all counts.