Sitting here wondering what to write about this movie, I cannot help but make a comparison to a scene out of the not-as-good-but-still-amusing-sequel Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey. That scene is, of course, their descent into hell. Apart from the somewhat appropriate metaphor for the falling into endless degradation and infinite horror, the dialogue is somewhat appropriate. For those of you unfamiliar with the scene, let me transcribe it for you:
<Pause for breath>
Jokes aside, yes this film is pretty bad. The challenge for me is to to see if I can communicate the abomination that it is. I think I lack the true poetry in my soul to do it justice but I do have enough of the mad scientist within me to dissect it so that while we were unprepared for this onslaught, perhaps those who come after us can can be forewarned.
Let’s start with the star. Now, I had foreknowledge that our protagonist Akshay Kumar was a bit of an action star and what we’d be getting here is a high action flick with a token romance thrown in for good measure. Add a dash of Bollywood song and dance and we’d have a hit. Tis unfortunate however that Akshay follows the action hero mould in all the bad ways, such that he really came off as a bit of a thug to me rather the noble and tragic hero I think they were trying to portray him as.
Now as a bit a of a kung fu fan, I have a level of expectation on the complexity of fights on film nowadays and considering I haven’t seen that much Bollywood, I can forgive the absolute lack of it in this one. By the same token though, I would expect something a bit more convincing and choreographed than a pro wrestling match. The absolute lack of flair was just painful to watch and was really what cinched my opinion of Arjun as a brute. That and just the pure nastiness of some of his actions didn’t exactly endear me to him. Not that I am saying that a lot of previous action heroes were angels either but Hollywood just seemed to come up with a decent enough pun to desensitise me to the horror.
But enough about the issues of the action hero. In comparison, the supporting cast did a decent enough job with what little they had. Our female lead, Kareena Kapoor, does a fine job as somebody to be rescued on a semi-regular basis and flip alliances based upon what other people tell her to do. So not exactly a strong character or one with much depth which is a real shame as I had such high expectations when she, well at least the idea of her, was introduced. Was so hoping there would be a romantic complication involving incest (and yes I have raised this with my therapist and am dealing with it at the moment). The villain, however, was villainous in the most evil manner that vaudeville had to offer. He looked mean, referred to himself often in the third person and had a name, so that whenever he referred to himself, it sounded pirate and/or Klingon like. Despite his coolness, he was still pretty two dimensional but as compared to some other characters, didn’t actually have enough screen time for him to become annoying.
But enough about the actors. As bland as they were, they could only portray what the script let them so let’s have a look at the story. Wait, it’s an action movie. OK, let’s look at the driving force between fights, explosions and car chases. Well pretty much the synopsis covers it all. No real surprises (no matter how much one hoped for them) and every cliché relevant to the genre was there in all its glory. I will comment on the first meeting between Arjun and Tina on the train though. The train itself appears to be something like the Orient Express of India and populated by caricatures. Now I’m not sure whether it was the ridiculous hi-jinks on the train or the look of some of the characters but I swear the entire scene was like something out of a bad Carry On film (a tautology I know). Anyway apart from that, you have villains that never die, questionable side romances and alliances and many flashbacks whenever our hero is having some problems (aka dying) to resolve him to see things through.
Production values in the film were fair enough most of the time. What money wasn’t spent on fight choreography was more likely spent on the song and dance numbers. This is probably the only interesting thing that Kareena Kapoor does and probably the central reason she is in this film. Costumes shift from the traditional to the western and change regularly as expected from a Bollywood film. One decision I have to question was to set the final scenes in South Africa and not use some of the locals. The jaw dropper in the entire movie that I could not believe and has to be seen to be believed are the scenes with bad ‘locals’ shooting at our hero. These ‘locals’ were played by Indian extras with shoe polish over their faces.
So if you’re looking for a quality movie, you should probably avoid Talaash. Of course, if you are looking for a film you can groan and bang your head against the wall on a regular basis such that your brains leak out your ears, this is probably the film for you. It’s no Tor the Fighting Eagle but then nothing beats the classics.