India Masala

Bollywood and culture in an emerging India

Talaash: Searching for the perfect whodunit

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Thomson Reuters)

The worst thing to happen while watching a murder mystery is someone telling you the twist in the tale even before the movie began. The second-worst thing is when you figure out the twist yourself, halfway through the film.

Call it a result of watching too many whodunits as a kid, but the twist in Reema Kagti’s “Talaash” was apparent an hour before it ended. After that it was just a matter of waiting to see how it plays out. No surprises there either. Kagti makes a stylised film, a murder mystery that also has an emotional undercurrent and borrows strongly from well-known Hollywood films of the genre (I won’t say which ones for fear of revealing the plot).

Aamir Khan plays troubled police inspector Surjan Singh Shekhawat, who moves to Mumbai after his son’s death in a freak boating accident. Wracked by guilt, he roams the streets of the city that never sleeps at night, leaving his wife Roshni (Rani Mukerji) to deal with the tragedy on her own.

Aamir Khan returns as hero with ‘Talaash’

Almost three years since his last full-length release “3 Idiots”, actor Aamir Khan is back with a new film. In between, he’s had a baby, produced a couple of movies, made his debut on Indian television, met the prime minister and appeared on the cover of Time magazine.

YouTube Preview Image“Talaash” is a psychological thriller, directed by Reema Kagti (a Farhan Akhtar protégé who previously directed “Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd”), and stars Khan as a police inspector trying to solve a difficult case while he battles his personal demons. Rani Mukerji and Kareena Kapoor also have pivotal roles in the film.

India not shining — on prime-time TV


Film-maker Madhur Bhandarkar said during an interview that “Indian audiences don’t like to see reality on screen, they see enough of that in life”. Bhandarkar is known for making “real” films, but he might have hit the nail on the head. Perhaps that is why Indian TV doesn’t normally depict “reality” on screen — preferring instead to hide behind yards of brocade sarees and scheming mothers-in-law and coy brides.

On Sunday though, Bollywood actor Aamir Khan chose to tell the story of a different kind of Indian woman — one that doesn’t get to live. On the first episode of his new talk show “Satyamev Jayate”, Khan chose to talk about female foeticide, a rampant issue in India, where the sex ratio is currently at its lowest since independence.

Dhobi Ghat: A whole new hue

There’s a charming scene in Kiran Rao’s “Dhobi Ghat”, where Yasmin (Kriti Malhotra) is filming her maid-servant and her daughter for a video tape she’s making for her family back home. While the maid is suitably coy about being on film, she’s also equally anxious to finish off with the niceties, and do what she’s there to do — work, earn her living and move on to the next house. That scene for me epitomises Mumbai in so many ways. It’s a city always in a rush as Yasmin says — there’s no time to waste on getting to know your neighbours or sharing gossip with them — not when there’s money to be earned and a living to be made. Rao captures this and so many other myriad hues of the city marvellously in her directorial debut, a deeply insightful portrait of four individuals who find and lose love and deal with loneliness in Mumbai. Aamir Khan plays Arun, a reclusive, commitment-phobic artist who is fascinated with a set of tapes he comes across, chronicling the life of a new bride in Mumbai city. Kriti Malhotra plays that bride, coy and full of hope, reporting daily events like what she’s made for dinner and her neighbour’s problems on tapes that she hopes to send to her brother back home. Monica Dogra plays Shai, an investment banker on sabbatical who after a one-night stand with Arun is slighted by him, and uses their common laundry man or dhobi Munna (played by Prateik) to keep tabs on Arun. Slowly, she forms a bond with Munna, a migrant from Bihar, who harbours dreams of making it big as an actor. Rao takes her time establishing her characters, but they are so well fleshed-out, you don’t mind discovering their quirks slowly. The film moves at a slow pace but is beautifully shot in real locations, mostly in South Mumbai. Performances are top-notch, but Malhotra and Prateik stand out – both conveying so much through just one glance that you empathise with their characters straight away. Films like “Dhobi Ghat” are like exploring a new cuisine — your palate may take time to get used to, given the “masala” and action it has been used to — but stick with it, and you will discover flavours you have never tasted before.

dhobighat1There’s a charming scene in Kiran Rao’s “Dhobi Ghat”, where Yasmin (Kriti Malhotra) is filming her maid-servant and her daughter for a video tape she’s making for her family back home. While the maid is suitably coy about being on film, she’s also equally anxious to finish off with the niceties, and do what she’s there to do — work, earn her living and move on to the next house.

That scene for me epitomises Mumbai in so many ways. It’s a city always in a rush as Yasmin says — there’s no time to waste on getting to know your neighbours or sharing gossip with them — not when there’s money to be earned and a living to be made.

3 Idiots: Lacks punch, but feels really good


3idiotsI must admit I had apprehensions going in to watch Rajkumar Hirani’s ‘3 Idiots’, inspite of the immense buzz that has surrounded the film.

One of my biggest qualms was how the director could hope to get away with casting middle aged men as college going boys.

Shah Rukh and Aamir: Khan they?


“We have to reach early,” I told a friend. “Or else we will never find a place to sit.”

Sure enough, even though we reached a good 45 minutes before the actual event, the seats in the first row were occupied.

Ghajini: Aamir’s most commercial film yet


This is a first. Aamir Khan has gone the Shah Rukh Khan and Akshay Kumar way — the actor in him has given way to the star. He’s finally starred in a film that totally rides on his star power and as you discover once you’ve watched “Ghajini”, it’s not such a bad thing after all.

Khan plays Sanjay Singhania, a telecom tycoon, who we are told suffers from short-term memory loss. Singhania’s memory is wiped clean after every 15 minutes and to keep himself updated with his life, he has to continuously take pictures of his surroundings, write notes to himself and tattoo important facts on his torso.

Aamir and the media — the 180 degree turn


aamir.jpgThe transformation is amazing. Aamir Khan was known as one of the most reclusive stars in Bollywood – he shunned film magazines, rarely gave interviews and was generally unavailable.This year, he appeared on the cover of a film magazine, granted interviews to all and sundry for a film that didn’t even star him (nephew Imran Khan’s debut film “Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na”),  and is now one of the most media savvy stars in the country.Take Monday, for example. A day after his directorial venture “Taare Zameen Par” was chosen as India’s entry to the Oscars, Aamir addressed a press conference, seeking suggestions from the media on how to promote the film to the Academy. He asked for their support and talked about everything from SRK to Raj Thackeray. All of it, with a smile on his face and twinkle in his eyes.When he was referred to as the “King of Bollywood” by a gushing journo, he laughed and said, “Don’t say that, you will upset Shah Rukh Khan.”That was not all. He had a go at Ashutosh Gowariker, saying he preferred ”Mumbai Meri Jaan” over the “Lagaan” director’s epic “Jodha Akbar”.Raj Thackeray wasn’t spared either. “Politicians who divide us are not speaking for the country, they are speaking for themselves. We should vote for those who unite us,” Aamir said, referring to the politician’s campaign against the Bachchans.He was even sporting enough to answer a question about whether Saif and Kareena had gotten married over the weekend, saying “didn’t you find anyone else to ask this question”.The one question he didn’t answer was about younger brother Faisal, telling a reporter firmly that it was a personal matter and he didn’t want to answer it.At the end of it, I came away smiling and impressed. Here is a star who can utilise the media to his advantage (I don’t want to get into what that says about us in the media), and one who is not afraid to speak his mind. Yet, he does know where he wants to draw the line. He has my grudging admiration.

Salman not Pappu, he can dance – Aamir Khan


It’s official. The ‘Pappu can’t dance’ number in the latest Aamir Khan production wasn’t meant to poke fun at actor Salman Khan.

Aamir, Salman and ImranAamir, with nephew Imran Khan in tow, set the record straight on Salman’s television gameshow ‘Dus Ka Dum’.

Of dogs, lizards and Shah Rukh


A few years ago, my brother Jose met a girl at an acting workshop in Delhi. He was surprised to learn of her name and couldn’t stop himself from revealing that our neighbour’s dog was also called Sheena.

Aamir KhanBut Sheena wasn’t amused. Having the same name as a cocker spaniel was obviously no honour. She glared at my brother and declared – “The lizard on my wall is named Jose”.