Even though the twist in Talaash is not spelt out anywhere, read this post-mortem chat at your own risk if you haven’t watched the film yet. Those who have, read on for all the answers you wanted to know.
Congratulations on your second film, Reema. What is the kind of feedback you are receiving for Talaash?
All kinds actually. I just received an SMS in the morning, which read: “Madam you have dubao’d Aamir Khan!” (Laughs out loud) Then there have been people who have got the spirit with which I have made the film. They have texted me saying how the film has stayed with them. That’s gratifying when you know that something you’ve made has meant something to someone.
Was the twist the starting point of the script when you and Zoya Akhtar started writing Talaash nine years back?
The starting point actually was something Zoya saw on the road, which she came and told me and could not explain. We were 10 years into our friendship and I knew she didn’t tell lies. We kind of became obsessed with it and then a few days later Honey Aunty (Honey Irani, Zoya’s mother) came and said that her friend’s daughter had experienced a similar incident on the same stretch of road. I tried to explain the phenomenon rationally because I am a rationalist. I personally don’t believe in the supernatural. So, finally what you see in the film, for me, it is the metaphor of the unknown. The film is actually about the internal journey of this man trying to be at peace with himself, by conquering the demons.
Is that why there is this feeling of a constant juggle between plot development and character building?
Oh yes! Not just in the writing stage but also in the edit. We were doing this constant trade-off between plot and character. I wanted the suspense to be like a smokescreen for the internal journey of Inspector Shekhawat (Aamir Khan).
Don’t you think the twist splits it into separate films? The one before is a thriller and the one after, a horror film.
I don’t think it was ever a thriller. I have been trying to tell this to everyone. It’s a suspense drama. Drama because there’s so much emotion attached. And the twist to me is a small plot point, not the film.
But the way you show that small plot point changes the genre completely…
Only that underwater scene which is very romanticised and very different from the rest of the film. Outside of the script, I felt that these two people, Rosy (Kareena Kapoor) and Suri, had fallen in love with each other and that stare at each other under the water kind of sums up their relationship.
Why does the junior cop tell Aamir that there have been many such accidents on that road? Given your twist, how is that possible?
It works in my imagination of the world of the film where innocent people get affected. Like a subtle message of karma. See, the person who is causing all the mishaps herself wants to be saved and finds this man who is a good man and wants to help her without anything in return. He, of course, does get something out of it in the end.
After you reveal the twist, you show scenes to justify the twist but nothing prior to that really gives an indication…
There are subliminal clues everywhere. See, not everyone will guess the twist as they watch the film. Some guess it earlier, some a little later, some when it’s actually revealed in the film. All depends on the different perspectives of the different audiences. Also, we shoot the person concerned in a little dreamy manner, often using the tilt-shift lens unlike the rest of the film, which is shot in a very realistic way. Plus the character doesn’t speak to anybody else. See, in a focus-group screening when we showed the film without the clues, the film just didn’t work and so we put the clues back in. It was never an easy call, though… a challenge at every step.
Everybody has been sharing the twist on their Facebook walls and on Twitter and texts. You must have seen this coming…
Of course! There’s nothing we could have done to avoid that. From our side what we did do was actually spread a few rumours of our own. Then there were lots of other people with their versions of the twist. Finally it reached a point where audiences were not sure which rumour was correct. That was our only way of countering the problem in this day and age of social media.
There was talk that the film had been pushed back from June to November because of its similarities to Kahaani. When that is not the case, why this delay in the release of Talaash?
Not all the shooting went to plan. We thought that the underwater sequence could be pulled off in India. But we couldn’t. Then there was a personal loss for me. I lost my dad and I had to take some time off before I could come back on the project. There was a fire on the sets of Aamir’s TV show Satyamev Jayate, delaying his schedule. Then the edit took longer than we expected. In fact, I was editing the film till end-October. So, I won’t call the release delayed but that we took our time till we were happy. And here I would like to thank my producers to have allowed me to do that.
A common complaint is Talaash doesn’t showcase Aamir Khan the superstar enough. There was no such expectations from a Dhobi Ghat but here they were going in expecting a Ghajini or a 3 Idiots…
While those films are great, I do believe that we can’t be making only one kind of cinema. For a film industry to stay healthy, we have to keep choosing a wide range of subjects in the mainstream space. Aamir was the driving force behind Talaash. He said ‘yes’ to the script and made the film happen. I know there are huge expectations from an Aamir Khan film. But he knows that too and he knew that with him we could make a success out of a subject like Talaash.
There is no stylistic similarity or director’s stamp in your two films –– Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd and Talaash…
See, Honeymoon was my first film and I cut my teeth with it. It was like a quantum leap for me in understanding cinema. It’s okay if every idea leads me to a new style.
So when are you off to Goa to play some poker?
I am trying to get away for some time now but there is a certain amount of separation anxiety associated with Talaash. Soon, hopefully! (Laughs)