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Talaash: Aamir Khan in Search of a Ghost

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Talaash, a new super-natural drama from the Academy Award nominee, director and producer Aamir Khan, is about the dark side of Bollywood and Mumbai. The story revolves around the accidental death of an actor, who dies mysteriously in a car crash by literally driving into the sea - without any alcohol or intoxication, roadside collision, or passengers in the car.

It leaves observers scratching their heads about the cause of the bizarre death - a mafia killing, drug overdose, or perhaps some unknown enemies - no one seems to have a clue? The mystery leads to a prostitution ring and to the seedy underworld around the maximum city, where 'a girl goes missing every night and nobody seems to care,' says Rosie, the main protagonist played by Kareena Kapoor. Yet, a dutiful and well-meaning police inspector, Surjan Singh, takes an interest in the case.

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(L-R) Kareena Kapoor and Aamir Khan
Photo: Reliance Big Pictures

The inspector, portrayed by Aamir Khan, is suffering from the loss of his only son. As a result, he is estranged from his endearing wife Roshni, beautifully played by Rani Mukherjee. He works like an insomniac, gets embroiled in the case partly drawn by his overwhelming sense of guilt, the inability to mourn his son's sudden death in a boating accident, and the tendency to self-blame.

While still grieving, he spends late nights trying to follow the ins-and-outs of the ladies of the night in the red-light district, looking for clues. The movie follows Aamir's every cinematic move, who clearly dominates the screen, with his police uniform and a sporty mustache.

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Aamir Khan
Photo: Reliance Big Pictures

Viewers will also notice the parallels between the police investigation and the inspector's son's death (both by drowning), where underwater sequences offer compelling imagery around Mumbai, a coastal city where the sea holds unknown dangers.

The chemistry between Aamir and Kareena works to make the movie enjoyable, but not necessarily memorable. Rani's return as Amir's supporting cast works as the acting between two veteran actors is very good, but the story lacks real depth and at times meanders on rather leisurely.

The plot thickens, a bit, as everyone connected with the actor's accident gets knocked off. Yet, the good inspector has the mystery almost solved, with his excellent detective work, and the perpetrator apprehended till we are thrown for a loop right back into the sea - this time with the cop and the co-conspirator in the police SUV as they are driving to the police station.

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Kareena Kapoor
Photo: Reliance Big Pictures

This mystery thriller has a rather bizarre ending - as Amir Khan was in search of a ghost for almost two hours - and the film director works hard to keep it hidden from the viewers and does not drop a hint.

"The answer lies within," the tagline of the film suggests. But the 'answer' seems to come in the form of a ghost of a prostitute, who has gone missing in the middle of the night. She is determined to haunt the earnest and hard-working police inspector, who is suffering from depression, sleepless nights, and some form of hallucinations about dead prostitutes. She has been waiting for the police inspector to rescue her from purgatory.

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Kareena Kapoor
Photo: Reliance Big Pictures

If this film is supposed to be a peep into the Mumbaiker's police psyche, it falls short. If this is a film about a police inspector struggling with his marriage, we expect more from the story. As a microcosm of Mumbai's underbelly, the film offers an interesting perspective, but with so many films about Mumbai what makes this different is the dying sex-workers and their pimps, who are all 'ghost in the machine'.

As a prescription for reform, we don't expect from the maker of Stayamave Jayate, the hit TV talk show, to suggest that police should unearth graves of lost souls to solve unsolved mysteries. Have we grown accustomed to expecting more from Aamir Khan Production, the maker of such superb films as Lagaan, Rang De Basanti, and Tare Zameen Par? I think so. Indeed, Aamir Khan himself has raised the bar by which he must now be judged.

Dinesh Sharma is the author of 'Barack Obama in Hawaii and Indonesia: The Making of a Global President' which was rated as the Top 10 Black history books for 2012. His next book on President Obama, 'Crossroads of Leadership: Globalization and American Exceptionalism in the Obama Presidency' is due to be published with Routledge Press. Read more stories by Dinesh Sharma.

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