After her directorial debut in 2007 with Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd, director Reema Kagti’s next venture is Talaash, a suspense drama that hits theatres on November 30th and stars Aamir Khan, Rani Mukherjee and Kareena Kapoor.

Not much is known about the plot of the film and that’s how Ms. Kagti wants to keep it. From what we’ve learned, Talaash delves deep into the underbelly of modern city life which creates a wonderful backdrop to an intriguing mystery, drawing together the lives of three characters in unexpected ways.

Inspector Surjan Singh Shekhawat (Aamir Khan) is a cop whose investigations bring him into contact with housewife Shreya Bondre (Rani Mukherji) and prostitute Rosy (Kareena Kapoor). The suspense in Talaash isn’t made of the usual action, violence and dramatic twists; the suspense lies in the emotional vulnerability of the characters and the emotional effect Ms. Kagti hopes the film will have on viewers.

Jugni Style’s Daniel Ashwin Pillai had the wonderful opportunity to speak to Reema Kagti about her upcoming film, the big Bollywood stars in Talaash, and her process and journey as a director.

 

Is Talaash a commercial film? There is a tendency in the industry to categorize uncommon characteristics in a film, or those attributes that do not fit the commercial formula  as “art house”. What kind of film is Talaash?

Talaash is a commercial film, and by no means an art house film. The darker emotions and journeys can be just as commercial as the romantic love stories and comedies we are used to. The film does deal with emotions and situations that the conventional Hindi film does not go to, but that does not mean a film that is not full of dance sequences or doesn’t fit the conventions of the commercial cannot be commercial. They are just conventions at the end of the day, not rules!

It has a gripping story line that is layered with a very emotional core, and its being propelled and put forward by some very strong performances.

You have a stellar cast in Talaash. How was the experience working with Aamir Khan, Rani Mukherjee and Kareena Kapoor?  How did they contribute to your vision for the film?

It’s been a tremendous experience working with the talent I have in the film. Each one individually brings so many ideas and energy to the project and I like that! Aamir is superstar but brings the enthusiasm of a newcomer and beginner to his projects – it is extremely inspiring! Rani and Kareena too were just fabulous to work with – they have brought so much depth into their characters. In spite of being these big stars, the most vital and important thing is that as actors they have been able to transcend their personas and completely enter the skin of the characters in the film and that is their greatest contribution to the project.

When you speak about Aamir, Rani and Kareena transcending their personas as stars to delve into the skin of your characters, how much of that is their responsibility as actors and yours as a director?

You know, filmmaking is a collaborative art form and you cannot break down that artistic process into bullet points or a list of factors or percentages. A good actor and director relationship is important in any film or portrayal of a character and I had the greatest time working with all my actors. I personally as a director like to work in a very democratic way, and at Excel Entertainment we have a very democratic process when it comes to ideating and sharing our thoughts and I want all my actors in any of my films to bring all of their and thoughts to the table.

Having my talent and crew and anyone involved in the film collaborate on a theoretical, conceptual or creative level is important and I encourage it. Taking on someone else’s idea and incorporating it into a film doesn’t diminish my role as a director or my control over the film – the process of sharing and listening hones it!

Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd. was your first film as a director, a light-hearted romantic comedy. Now as your second directorial venture you have Talaash which is a darker suspense drama – that’s quite a contrast. Filmmakers tend to stick to what they know and they are good at and we are seeing your versatility already from your second film going forward. What has the journey been like between both films?

I like to be challenged, actually I need to be. I don’t want to do the same thing over and over again. The genesis of making a film starts with an idea that I am extremely attracted to and that is what led me to create a film like Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd. For Talaash, I had an idea and I let it lead me organically and it led me to this suspense drama. It’s as simple as that! It’s about having ideas and exploring them!

Do you identify with the characters in your films? Are any of their experiences, reactions and emotions related to you in any way?

I don’t think things can be put down so clearly when it comes to an artistic platform such as filmmaking. Take this as an example, I’ve never been married, I’ve never been on a honeymoon and both of these things will never happen – but I made a film about it anyway! Each character does have a bit of me, because I wrote them and I think that is natural for any artist. Having some of you present in your work is especially true when you’re not just a director, but you’re writing as well. There is a lot of me present in my characters, or at least how I feel and what I have seen is there in my films.

There is a lot being made out of this notion of the female director. It’s true that we’re seeing more today than we have in the past, but what is your stance on this? Do you feel empowered by it?

I actually think its a form of reverse prejudice! I think by definition, the mind that is directoring needs to be an androgynous mind, you have to deal with both male and female characters, you have to understand them and tell their stories. I don’t think the gender of a director makes a difference – it depends on what kind of a person you are and what kind of story you are trying to tell and the people that you choose to work with.

When it comes to a films like Talaash, where you have a very emotional story line, are you constantly keeping in mind that you have to appeal to the viewer emotionally? Do you feel pressured to reach out to their emotions and sensitivities while still staying true to the story line?

It’s a very big challenge! We’ve tried to make a film that involves the audience, they cannot just be sitting there watching – they need to go through the journey with the characters. You can only make a calculated guess and with Talaash we’ve put our best foot forward.

Talaash opens in theatres in India and across the world on November 30, 2012.

Story By: Daniel Ashwin Pillai