Talaash – an advanced storyline

In Movie Reviews on December 9, 2012 at 5:24 am


There is an advanced level of story telling going on in the movie Talaash. While the detective solves the crime, his personal life comes undone and reveals to us what exactly makes him tick and makes us wonder if:

His talaash (search) is ultimately a quest to find himself.

The crucible of change that Rani Mukherjee’s character is put through and convincingly undergoes visible change, is exquisite to say the least.

Aamir’s wound-like-spring, taut characterisation of the detective remains true to the archetype. In contrast his subtle and deliberate, anti-schmaltzy emotional catharsis, is poignant in the end.

The detective archetype is always a loner.

Historically, the three distinct stages in human community-dwelling development are in:  The wilderness, the village and then the city or metropolis.  In between these three stages is an archetype that does not change much.  The western cowboy, is such an archetype fighting a lone battle where the village is eating away the wilderness.  The rules he follows are liminal and play at a threshold of two stages.  The detective genre takes the western cowboy into the city.  Playing again, in a liminal threshold caught between the village and the city.  A loner pitted against a corrupt system of the city eating away the copacetic order of the village.

He is not tied emotionally to anybody. Not to his wife and not to the other pretty woman. Aamir plays true to this archetype. But it demands that he pay a price: There is nobody to comfort him, not even himself.

This is where the story moves from ordinary to extraordinary.  It does it by breaking away from the archetype of the detective and slipping away comfortably into another.

The archetype hurts himself by following the narrow ill-defined path of being a lone warrior. He needs to breakaway from this destructive behavior. He needs to reach out for help, but finds it immensely difficult to do. Because his duty towards the archetypal detective, governs and rules over his own desire to save himself from, well, himself.

Talaash is interesting because it not only addresses the whodunit part of the detective genre, but most importantly reveals to us who the detective really *is* .

The two questions being asked are: who is the criminal? and who is the detective? the advanced story structure in Talaash is found in the nugget that the answer to both are interdependent and are driven by a common weave of the plot.

Answering these two questions, usually relegated to distant tertiary position in most movies, gives us hope that there are serious minds at work in some parts of a crass wholesale entertainment establishment called Bollywood.  The scriptwriters are Zoya Akhtar and the movie’s Director Reema Kagti.

The ultimate victory over the corrupting city is to accomodate a village trope in the form of clairvoyance.  The city itself demands that of the protagonist and not the other way around.  So is the detective winning or losing?  The detective cannot be blamed for succumbing to the inflicted battle wounds of a city.  He is to be admired for opening his eyes and heart to a hidden clockwork of the universe and save himself.

If the *belief* in paranormal activity becomes a powerful change-agent, mending lives gone wrong, who is to say if that belief is blind in both eyes?




My old unshakable reference standard for this film was Govind Nihalani’s “Ardh Satya” starring Om Puri, Sadashiv Amrapurkar, Smita Patil and Naseeruddin Shah, released in 1983.


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  1. I worked on this Film. The team came to London Pinewood studios to shoot the underwater sequence. I have to say that not only is Amiir Khan a very nice man, he is also a brave one.

    We had stand-in divers to take his place when it was not necessary for Amiir to be in the water. But they were never used. He insisted on doing everything himself; which included stting for over 2 minutes in the sunken car without any air being taken.

    Before he started filming Talaash, he couldn’t even swim.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Bill. I am sure his fans would be delighted by your affirmations!

    Amir is respected as an intense actor in India. His choice of movies are a bit more cerebral than the usual Bollywood fare.

    There is another facet of Amir Khan that was viewed as hugely successful. An Oprah-esque televised episodic discussion of deep rooted ills in modern India, called Satyamev Jayate (Truth alone Triumphs)

    I have a sampling of that activism in one of my older blogs:

    (IMDb lists you as the UK Production Manager for Talaash.)

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