Filmy Talks: Talaash


Filmy Talks is a series where I discuss films in a stream of thought style. These are not reviews and are intended for readers who have already seen the film but would like to think about it more.

Talaash is not a perfect film. Several aspects of the film could be criticized such as the character Rosie, who despite being a spirit, can open doors and touch people. Or the kind of connection that Rosie shares with Inspector Shekhawat, the only person who can see her and hear her. But I like the overall feel, look and sound of the film.

I think that the beginning of the film– the credits part and the very first scene– is perfect. The credits open up with the song “Muskhane jhoote hai” in the background and we see snaps of Mumbai at night. The night life, the crowded roads, the red light district, poor people aimlessly wandering the streets. The red lights flashing in the background as people reach for a night time snack and call girls covering up their bruised faces with makeup. The introduction of the film actually tells me all that I need to know about this story– mystery, sadness, pain, anger and majboori covered up by flashy colorful lights. There couldn’t be a better introduction for Talaash.

And the first scene which is the inspiration and core of the story–an empty Mumbai road at late hours of the night, people under the influence, lying about on the side walk. A dog suddenly getting disturbed, howling and running away. And finally a car speeding along, suddenly swerving and flying into the ocean. In the making of the film, writer Zoya Akhtar describes a similar experience she had with her friends years ago when they suddenly saw a woman standing in the middle of the road while driving in Mumbai at late hours. They swerved but when they stopped the car and looked around, there was no one there. And so was born the story of Talaash.

I also love the sparkle that seems to follow Rosie throughout the movie. The reflections of glitter in her clothes, jewelry, eyeshadow and lipgloss, the spark in her eye, the brightness of her face, the reflection of light in her tresses. They say that people who are close to God have a bright, glowing face. This is the subconscious message I received from the way Rosie was portrayed. And the knowing smile that she always carries. Kareena is the heart and soul of the film. Her character is the mystery, her performance is the story. The story is not just in her words, it’s also in her eyes and her body language. No one could have played the role like her. Despite the fact that there were two other powerful performers in the film, Kareena’s character Rosie is the center of everything.

I think that there is only one way to make a suspense film work and that is to keep things realistic. The story is a puzzle. When the pieces are placed together, it has to make sense, it has to be realistic. But yet the story must deliver the pieces of the puzzle slowly. Moreover, it has to deliver the right pieces at the right time. One piece should not give away the other and yet it should create enough curiosity and anxiety to make the audience continue watching it. Talaash delivers the right pieces at the right time. If the audience finds fault with Talaash, the fault has to be in the overall picture.

The issue is not that Rosie can take on her form as a human, nor that only one person can see her. The issue is that since she has no physical form and is only a visual, she should not be able to open doors, touch objects or people. Having said that, none of us have died and returned to tell the story. There is no dictionary entry about what a spirit is like or what it can or can’t do. So this part is completely subjective and its believability relies on the worldview and imagination of the person watching the film. But if Zoya and Reema had made those details differently, the audience could, upon finding out that Rosie is a ghost, think back to all those earlier scenes of Rosy and connect the dots. They actually did that. Remember those scenes where Rosy speaks to Taymour and sits among the girls or at a table with men and yet no one looks at her or responds? So obviously they thought about this and I’m sure they also thought about the fact that she can open doors. We have to give them the benefit of doubt, there must be a reason why they did that. But it doesn’t change the fact that those small incidents reduced the believability of Rosie as a character for me, who is the heart and sole of the story.

Inspector Shekhawat is according to me the dark part of Talaash. He is a man in grievance and agony. It’s not just grievance, it’s remorse, regret. He is stuck and cannot move forward, nor can he go back and change the past. If we look at the story from his angle, all of these incidents are a test for him and also an opportunity to come to terms with himself and the past. But aside from the inner demons that Shekhawat is fighting, he is only important for the story because of Rosy, because she chose him. It’s his equation with Rosy that makes Shekhawat a bit interesting. The scenes of Shekhawat and Rosie are the most intriguing.

Shekhawat is special because he can connect with her and there is a reason why Rosy can be seen only to him. The film gives an explanation for this as well. The lady who talks to spirits says that disturbed spirits are attracted to people with pain, because they think that they too are like them. But I think that in Talaash Rosy connects with Shekhawat because he is in a position to help Rosy and because he needs Rosy’s help as well. She is the medium through which Shekhawat transforms. And he is the medium through which Rosie finds peace.

Roshni, wife of Inspector Shekhawat transforms as well. She also overcomes her grievance. Despite being married, Roshni is alone. Her husband does not spend much time with her or talk to her. The weird part is that Roshni suspects Shekhawat of cheating on her because he spends nights out of the home. So she assumes that he is spending that time with someone. In fact he does. He is spending some of his time with Rosy but he doesn’t cheat on his wife. He just chats with Rosy. One night, they go to a hotel together but just talk and Shekhawat falls asleep. It’s his first night’s sleep since the death of his son.

These scenes where Rosy and Shekhawat spend time together implies to us that there is more to their relationship than just friendship. They don’t just share their thoughts, which they can’t share with anyone else. The synopsis of the film uses the phrase “fatal attraction” but this is not at all suitable for the relationship between Rosy and Shekhawat. It’s more like a bond of souls, something beyond physical attraction. I don’t think it’s love in the sense that we know. I don’t think they love each other. I think they trust one another, they have faith in one another. In another sense, they fill the emptiness in one another, they remedy one other’s wounds.

There is another angle of the story– the truth behind Rosie, a prostitute who was severely injured due to a car accident and literally left to die. It’s a sad reality of the world, some lives have no value and are left to suffer. Or that’s the misconception that some people have convinced themselves of. Talaash is also a story of divine justice where those who did bad deeds were made to pay for them in this world, and through the hands of the one whom they harmed. So Talaash is also a story of injustice or delayed justice. There is no doubt that the justice of humans is usually imperfect or late and sometimes nonexistent.

Because I unfortunately read a spoiler which revealed the suspense climax of the film before I saw it, the scene where it is revealed that Rosie is a spirit was not a surprise for me. (I stopped reading reviews of suspense films before seeing them since). As far as I know, many people did not find this believable and this was the point where most of the criticism about the film came in. I don’t think it was unbelievable, I just wish her character was not shown to be touching things.

Something else that could be criticized is the fact that Shekhawat has to figure out the mystery of Rosie on his own, including the place where she was buried. Why does Rosie not introduce herself with her real name when she meets Shekhawat? She spoke to him so many times, couldn’t she just tell him where she was buried and what happened to her? Why did she want him to figure it out? She was able to tell him details about the case, so why play this game? Was it because Shekhawat is not the type of person to believe in spirits? Would he just ignore Rosie if she had told everything outright? So maybe Talaash is also about convincing Shekhawat that spirits exist and that they can get in touch with people. So maybe all of this happened just so that Shekhawat could read his son’s letter, forgive himself, move on and find peace.

The film ends on the note that Shekhawat and Roshni have re-found one another and have bonded once again. They have mended their relationship. This is also why I don’t believe that there was ever love between Rosie and Shekhawat. Although all turned out well in the end, I don’t know why the film ends in a sad mood.

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