Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

November 30, 2012

Strangers in the night

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:40 pm

November 30, 2012

Cast: Aamir Khan, Rani Mukherjee, Kareena Kapoor, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Shernaz Patel, Rajkumar Yadav, Sheeba Chadha

Director: Reema Kagti

Bathed in a noir-like moodiness, Talaash, directed competently by Reema Kagti, opens with a leisurely paced montage of Mumbai after dark. Wafting across the neon-lit signage of seedy bars, the camera pokes its head into the backrooms of brothels where prostitutes doll up before heading out to ply their wares. Crummy-looking pimps court prospective clients for their girls, an old destitute woman stares blankly huddled in a streetside corner, even as urchins tap hopefully on taxi windows. This is a side of a city we fleetingly encounter and yet it seldom registers in our lives. What Kagti conveys through Talaash is that this is a living-breathing strata of our society, and these people must matter – they deserve humanity and compassion.

These ideas are nicely wrapped in a murder mystery, kicked off the night when a film star drives his car straight into a promenade and plunges it into the sea, killing himself. Inspector Surjan Singh Shekhawat (Aamir Khan) finds himself sucked into the underbelly of the city as he investigates this case that is evidently more complicated than it appears.

Himself straining under the burden of guilt since the death of a loved one, Shekhawat immerses himself in the investigation, even as his wife Roshni (Rani Mukherjee) wrestles with depression and loneliness. As the cop spends long nights driving around the city’s darkest corners in search of clues, he’s befriended by a kindly hooker, Rosy (Kareena Kapoor), who helps him uncoil the maze of this case.

Kagti (with her co-writer Zoya Akhtar) tells a gripping tale that operates on more levels than one. On the surface it’s a juicy suspense, but Talaash is as much about grief and surviving great loss. It’s about relationships and love, and at the same time it’s a story that questions your belief in the paranormal. In spite of packing in many themes at once, the writers keep the film consistently accessible (and occasionally simplistic), but without ‘dumbing down’ the material. Not everything works, though. The twist in the end is cheesy, and isn’t too hard to see coming, but mercifully Kagti keeps the journey leading up to the big reveal engrossing. What’s more disappointing than the twist itself is the manner in which the writers recap scenes to explain it, as if spoon-feeding those who didn’t get it right away.

Still, Talaash benefits from its crisply written characters and the exceptional actors who play these parts. As Taimur, the limping odd-jobs guy in the brothel, Nawazuddin Siddiqui is terrific, inhabiting the role like a chameleon. Playing Shekhawat’s junior officer, it takes Rajkumar Yadav just one scene – in which he’s merely a spectator with a single line of dialogue – to show what a good actor can bring even to a small part. The same is true of Shernaz Patel who shows up as a kooky psychic, and Sheeba Chadha who appears as a past-her-prime sex worker.

Of the leads, Kareena Kapoor brings both oomph and heart to her role, despite the sometimes clunky lines she must mouth. Rani Mukherjee shines as the cop’s desperate wife, investing her performance with a gamut of emotions, never once reducing the character to a pathetic caricature. It’s Aamir Khan, in the film’s central role, who not surprisingly leaves the biggest impression. Shekhawat internalizes his emotions for the most part, and Aamir brings volumes of depth to this troubled man…that furrowed brow, the moustache, all adding to this remarkable performance.

Director Reema Kagti employs a solid technical team to deliver a film that is rich in atmospherics and mood. KU Mohanan’s striking photography and Ram Sampat’s haunting score lend a distinct texture to this film, as do the real Mumbai locations the film is shot on. But Talaash doesn’t feel nearly as tense or urgent as it ought to, and its plot simply isn’t as deliciously complex as it could’ve been. As a result, it’s a very watchable film, but not an unforgettable one.

I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for director Reema Kagti’s Talaash. Its shortcomings notwithstanding, it’s a good example of an entertaining commercial film that didn’t need to be lazy or senseless. Don’t miss it; easily one of the better films this year.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)


  1. ek main aur ek tu ki ratings bhi rajeev aapne 3 di thi . toh aap ek baat batao omkara ko kya doge ?

    Comment by nishant — December 5, 2012 @ 9:01 pm

  2. A more faithful rating than what you have done in the recent past and a much more engaging review as well. So congrats 🙂 I went to the movie without any idea of the suspense and though i agree that it did not completely come out of the blues, but it was executed well enough for me. It’s immature to damn the movie for not being ‘realistic’ because realism is not a standard for evaluation of every art work. There, i believe, Rajeev you could have done much more than directing the audience to believe that the movie ‘questions your belief of the paranormal’. No doubt, it does that but it does much more. It invests the spectre that Rosy/Simran is with so many meanings that change with the change of characters. It’s just not a unsatisfied soul back for revenge but can very easily be read as an extension of Suri’s mixed emotions of desire, guilt and victimization.

    I agree with most of what you have said about the performances. Must congratulate Aamir on the choice of his movies and a remarkable performance. He fills every frame of the movie and that makes it engaging. Nawaz is quite a favorite with me and his character leaves you feeling the most disturbed. The impaired leg walk haunts you as if its a statement in itself of the symbolic corruption of the society we inhabit and its margins. Kareena Kapoor suits the role and i could not imagine anyone else in it. She brings a clumsy charm to the prostitute and a victimhood to the deceased soul. Rani Mukerji outshines her though in her part as the mourning mother trying to recover from the loss.

    Wish you luck for your next set of reviews, hope you keep up the standard you have set!

    Comment by chuck — December 5, 2012 @ 11:00 pm

  3. i think you always give less stars to any big film or any good film this movie deservs atleast 4 stars and still you gave 1/2 star less when you will learn that stars are not so expensive for you and for us they are important for any movie but you seems to carry your stars with yourself

    Comment by Dipesh — December 7, 2012 @ 2:04 am

  4. Lolz I was looking for comedy in the film. Here it is 3.5/5, for this bakwaas film

    Comment by Kumar — December 8, 2012 @ 2:38 pm

  5. Really bad movie,,,,,the filmmaker copied the movie from great movies like THE SIXTH SENSE

    Comment by amlaan — December 8, 2012 @ 9:50 pm

  6. Nakli Movie Hai … Bilkul Bhi Pasand Nhi Aayi Mujhe …

    Comment by Aman — December 9, 2012 @ 9:25 pm

  7. Unfair rating.

    Comment by Jan Mohammad — December 9, 2012 @ 9:59 pm

  8. I don’t know why people are giving negative comments abt the end of the movie…..actually u can’t predict the end of the movie, and that’s wht i liked abt it.. For the people who didn’t like the end because it was unrealistic… Did Amir or the director said that it’s going to b a relistic thriller. And i think for them The Sixth Sence is also a ‘bkwaas’ or ‘bekaar’ but the fact is it’s not. I think that the actors and the director did a good job.

    Comment by sandeep — December 11, 2012 @ 8:19 am

  9. I would say it is fair rating then JTHJ. I hope Reema could have let audience engaged more by not revieling the suspence in this part of the film instead the movie would have got one more release which will reveal the suspence after a month or so. its just like releasing a movie one more time with one or two songs and scenes added just like Kaho na Pyaar hai. Had this been done audience would have speculate more about the suspence and gained more interest in it.

    I am just thinking it in prespective of the buisness it would have done with respect to this release. Hope I am practical enough in terms of my thinking. As I knew the ending when I went to see the movie and it was not as surprising for me as it was for my friends who didnt know about the end.

    Comment by Vivek — December 11, 2012 @ 3:08 pm

  10. Tell me one Aamir Khan Movie which Rajeev MAsand didn’t Like.. BIASED COmpletely Biased REview and Ratings. Time waste Money WAste for this 2 and half hours of Bakwas movie. Aamir should not have done a movie like this. Unrealistic movie and third class direction. No action, No dance, No story, Nothing.

    Comment by Srichand — December 12, 2012 @ 2:17 pm

  11. I like your reviews in general (even though they are slightly positively biased towards Shah Rukh, and I am clearly not a SRK fan).

    I loved the film for its execution and acting. You are right, the performances are excellent, especially that of Aamir, Rani and Nawaz.

    However, I fail to understand that NO ONE has been able to point out that this movie is hugely inspired by a Thai/Korean film. I had recently seen a film where the spirit of a prostitute helps a policeman save a lot of girls from a brothel. A real hard core action film. This film has taken a lot of “inspiration” from that film. This film focuses on the individual a lot more (but that is due to Aamir). A lot of scenes have been copied/inspired from it. I am somehow not able to recollect the name of the film at all.

    Would love if someone is able to recall the film’s name.

    Comment by Ankur — December 12, 2012 @ 3:15 pm

  12. not so good…..

    Comment by Aakash — December 12, 2012 @ 7:35 pm

  13. Had too many expectations due to the hype built up- it did fall short, however it is better than the other one doing the rounds.

    Comment by NK — December 16, 2012 @ 11:13 pm

  14. This is at its best.The movie is not only a perfect suspense thriller but also a strong emotional drama.I had high expectations while going to the movie, it did not disappoint.

    Comment by Gururaj — December 18, 2012 @ 10:32 am

  15. I always agreed with rajeev masand’s reviews… but not this one… talaash was d.u.m.b
    a paranormal theme NOT handled well…. i wish they kept this murder mystery more realistic… the ending RUINED the movie, which already had flaws…

    Comment by Sonia — December 18, 2012 @ 5:08 pm

  16. I don’t care whether the film was copied or not…but it was a big letdown considering the hype that was generated around as aamir featured in a film after some time…kareena’s performance mainly touched upon me as being brilliant….but nawaz,raj kumar along with a few actors were vastly under-utilised…finally,what i felt was that even though the intentions were right…the director failed to put the pieces together and was somewhat raw in her presentation…movie was overtly stretched after 30 mins or so,and there were hardly any suspense after intermission…and especially the scene in the climax where kareena rescued aamir hands-on was real funny… 🙂

    Comment by Soham — December 21, 2012 @ 6:56 am

  17. Just Pathetic Ending ! .. The Climax Killed the Wholel Fun …

    Comment by Chetan — December 22, 2012 @ 1:14 pm

  18. If you rate this crap 3.5 then you would give C.I.D on Sony 5 star I believe.
    2 max 2.5….

    Comment by Divyamaan — December 22, 2012 @ 10:34 pm

  19. well, i feel it was a wonderful film.. reema kagti has done full justice.. u hardly come across movies like these,i mean most of em r mindless utter waste piece of crap.. i really enjoyed the movie.. it deserves min 4 stars for the most hatke movie of the year !!

    Comment by muskan — December 27, 2012 @ 5:58 pm

  20. Though i am writing this late…i have watched the movie 4 times…and still i get engrossed into the simple story line with a great message…thanks to the seemingly excellent background score. The movie is utterly predictable as it progresses….but i am one of those who admires the journey more than the destination. Kudos to the Excel Entertainment team for bringing such a good piece of cinema.

    Comment by Nirav — March 31, 2013 @ 9:33 am

  21. I agree with you Rajeev that it is a very watchable film indeed. But I don’t think it’s worth 3.5 stars. I think 2.5-3 would have been the ideal rating for this. Amir and Kareena were terrific in the leads but don’t think Rani’s character was written well. Anyways its not a bad watch

    Comment by Sreejith — May 2, 2013 @ 6:06 pm

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