Director Reema Kagti, who co-wrote story and screenplay with Zoya Akhtar, is careful to cast light on the people toiling in the shadows of the starstruck city of Mumbai even as she follows a high-profile police investigation. The chorus of the jazzy song playing under the opening credits says that "the smile is a lie" as it shows prostitutes climbing into cars and addicts drinking clouds of smoke. This beginning has a whiff of the stunningly fine opening credit sequence of Zoya Akhtar's own Luck by Chance, which also featured unsung, unglamorous people who don't often appear in glossy Bollywood films (and which remains one of my all-time favorite scenes), but Zoya's images of studio-set laborers show real people doing real jobs; in contrast, the hookers and junkies in Talaash look more like junior artistes wearing prop-room rags and glitter. Still, the cynical lyrics (by legendary film writer Javed Akhtar, who also happens to be Zoya's father) and moody look create an effective setup for the first scene.
|Studio construction workers in Zoya Akhtar's Luck by Chance|
|Rani and Aamir falling apart|
In another subplot, in a part of Mumbai that might as well be on
|Nawazuddin plotting a way out|
Connecting these miles-apart stories is the beautiful streetwalker Rosie (Kareena Kapoor), who spots the cop on his sleepless, aimless nightly rounds. She seems to be eyeing him as a potential customer, and for him she is, at first, merely a source of information about his case. But there's an underlying connection that isn't the one I expected. Rosie sees Suri as more kindred spirit and confidante than potential lover--and this is not the only parallel between their characters and Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam's Chhoti Bahu and Bhoothnath.*
|Eena Meena Kareena|
The music (by Ram Sampath, who did such great work on Delhi Belly) didn't wow me, but a creepy repeated three-note motif--I swear it's the creaky-swing music from the scene in Sholay when the thakur returns home to find his family murdered--got under my skin like a fragment of a dream.
And I also couldn't shake a couple of small, telling moments from Talaash's matter-of-fact depictions of life among the sex workers and pimps. In one scene, we get a casual glimpse of a group of prostitutes asking Tehmur the servant for a drink of water--and in response, he passes the water bottle to them through the bars of the jail-like cell inside which they are imprisoned. Later a young woman whose boyfriend has been killed is dragged, wailing and protesting, back to work for the madam the boyfriend had paid for her freedom. Such moments aren't belabored, but they still manage to reveal something about what the bottom rung looks like and why it's so hard to imagine a way out.
*No, I can't tell you any more than this.