Reema Kagti: “Talaash is a very intriguing story taken forward by some seriously power packed performances!”

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Since we first heard that the cast of Reema Kagti’s Talaash included Aamir Khan, Rani Mukherjee and Kareena Kapoor, we have been intrigued with this film. With each new clue and each new reveal through the promos, we have gotten more excited to see what Talaash has in store for us. As Rani told us in her interview, this film is a new genre for Hindi cinema: a suspense drama. Without giving too much away, what we DO know is that Talaash is a tale of love lost, fatal attraction, and, above all, the quest to solve a perfect crime. Suspenseful at its core, Talaash explores the intriguing story through the eyes of Inspector Shekhawat (Aamir Khan), his wife Roshni (Rani Mukherjee), and sex worker Rosie (Kareena Kapoor). We will find out how it all pieces together, and whether they find the answer that lies within, when the film hits theaters on November 30th. It is always a pleasure and an informative experience to interview a film’s director, and once again this was proved to be true with Reema Kagti. We had a wonderful, in-depth conversation that was full of fabulous answers. Read on as Reema Kagti gives us some insight into working with Rani, Aamir and Kareena and so much more!

Tell us how the idea for the story of Talaash came about.
The idea for Talaash actually came about way before Zoya and I wrote together. We were actually still assistant directors. We had become friends and it had started from something she said. She told me about something that had happened to her and we kind of started bouncing the idea about and this story just started developing. That is how Talaash started.

How do you and Zoya write together?
For me, personally, I like to work with her because I think writing can be very tedious and boring and you are just stuck in a vacuum when you are writing alone. In terms of Zoya and me working together it happened really organically. We met as ADs and then we became friends because we had a lot of common ground – writing being one of them. Actually Talaash was one of the first scripts we wrote together. It was just an experiment. We weren’t really doing it seriously and when we were kind of half way through the story we were sitting in her house one day and Farhan came in and he said, ‘What are you all doing’? We said we are writing a story for a film and he said tell me, so we put the story past him and he loved it. He said, ‘You know what, as Excel we would like to buy this because it is a great story’. So Zoya and me without thinking ,we kind of sold a story and then we went on holiday. We came back from the holiday and we both regretted it deeply because by then we had both fallen in love with the story. We said we don’t want to sell it to you guys anymore. (Laughs) And Riteish was like too bad I believe you just went on holiday and spent my money. Then we kind of moved on to other scripts and I did Honeymoon Travels. But because it is a very special story I really felt it was something that either I or Zoya should have directed. This was in my mind all the time. So after Honeymoon, I spoke to Farhan and I said, ‘Listen, that story that we had given to you all, can I direct it for Excel? I would love too.’ They agreed! So Zoya and I sat down and worked the screenplay out.

Did you have actors in mind while writing the screenplay?
Yes, yes we did have certain actors in mind. Honestly, to tell you the truth, we wrote the screenplay with Aamir in mind. Though at the time when we were writing the script I think we tried contacting Aamir, but we kind of felt like it would be quite awhile until we could get in touch with him. I think he was busy with Ghajini and Dhobi Ghat at that time. In that sense, we did approach a couple of other people before Aamir. But interestingly, and I am glad that it turned out to be him, because while we were writing it we would often speak of him. I remember there is a certain amount of swimming that this character has to do and I kept telling Zo, ‘Zo, Zo I know Aamir doesn’t swim so we should like keep in down and not put to much swimming in the script.’

I know since it is a suspense film you don’t want to reveal much but what can you tell me about the story of the film?
You are right, like you said I can’t say too much about the story of the film, but what I can say is normally when you have so much suspense in a film it becomes a thriller, but this one is unusual because though it has got pretty gripping suspense at the end of it, it is a very emotional story and it’s a drama. I think that it is unusual in its genre – it’s a suspense drama, we don’t see to many of those in commercial Hindi films.

What really got me attracted to the script was the story. It was just a beautiful story and when we started writing it out it just so happened that it turned out to be a suspense drama. It organically worked itself into a suspense drama. It’s not like initially when we started writing it either of us were trying to pare it down to anything.

Tell us about casting Kareena and Rani.
Kareena is playing a character of a streetwalker. Rani is playing the character of Aamir’s wife, she is playing Roshni the wife of this cop. In terms of what each role or each character required they were each my perfect cast. I really enjoyed working with them. They are wonderful actresses. They both are really in control of their craft. I wanted that for my characters.

What is it like to work with Aamir?
I had the best time working with him. He’s very cooperative, he’s very supportive. I get asked all the time if he is interfering or he has to many suggestions… you know I don’t think like that. In fact, I love a lot of dialog with my cast, with my crew, with my producers. I am really happy with his inputs. I think it is remarkable that somebody can be so many films down and the enthusiasm he brings to the project is really like that of a first timer. It really has been a tremendous experience working with him. I have really enjoyed every moment of it!

You also have Nawazuddin Siddique…
Yes, he is playing a very, very pivotal role in the film. You know when I met Nawaz the first time personally there is something very honest and pure about the guy. The character that he is playing in the film, though he does end up doing certain negative things in the film, that is how I saw my character – I saw him as a very, very sweet, honest, pure guy who is just stuck in a bad place. I instantly felt the connection to Nawaz and my character.

He really seems to get lost into his characters so that you don’t know it is him.
He does, he does. He is an incredibly good actor. The communication is intense. He can communicate with just a small gesture.

How do you as a director work with your actors to get them into their roles?
I kind of adapt to different styles. Say for example Aamir and Rani really like to prep. They really like to get everything in place. They really, really want to get into my head and they want to know how I want to do this scene and I let them, you know. In terms of Aamir, a lot of people mistake it as interference, but I think it is part of his process. He has a need to know what’s going on with the film. And he is happy to know any little inconsequential detail that you would like to tell him. Rani is also very similar in her process, she really likes to prep a lot, be very prepared. Really go through things very, very thoroughly and then come on to set. In terms of Kareena, I think she has got a completely different approach. She’s a lot more spontaneous, a lot more instinctive. She’s not that happy to prep. She’s very happy to do that we have all the time in the world to do wardrobe. (Laughs) So much so that I was getting very, very frightened about the fact that we were getting no time for reading, but you know the thing with her is that she is very, very natural. Initially in the first couple of days I used to be asking her if she was listening to me when I was directing her (laughs) because she was always on her phone and I would be like are you listening to me or are you BBMing? But she was listening to me and she was very, very good at taking direction and giving me a variation or just changing a small thing but it just makes a world of difference.

What surprised you working with these actors?
I think with Kareena, because like I said about her attitude about prep, I was most nervous about her, but she is such a natural that is just took me by surprise.

What took me by surprise by Aamir was the sincerity and the enthusiasm. You wouldn’t think that this guy was one of the biggest actors in the country. You would think at best he is a first timer or perhaps somebody with no films – honestly! The kind of enthusiasm that he brings to the table – I find that so inspiring. It also really, really took me by surprise how easy he is actually to be around. The entire shooting process he was just incredibly easy and there were absolutely no star tantrums, none of that! I have also worked with him, as an AD on two films so I was really happy to see that he was as he always was, he was really chilled out and low maintenance, really easy to work with.

Was this a difficult film to make?
Yes, I think so. In terms of shooting parts of it were a bit difficult because we shot live locations in Bombay. You know, shooting live locations anywhere and in a city like Bombay is just incredibly difficult. That was a problem. And initially I also was having some casting problems so it took some time for the film to take off.

Right now my current pet peeve is with the censor laws in the country. I am having to put pickers in the middle of my film while the scene is going on. It is some crazy regulation that has been set down, I think by the Information and Broadcast ministry, that has been communicated to the censor board and to filmmakers, that if characters are smoking in the film, we not only have to put a disclaimer at the beginning of the film and just before and after the interval, but while the smoking scene is going on, I will actually have to put pickers that say smoking is injurious to health. For me, this is a violation of my fundamental rights as an artist. As an artist I am supposed to reflect reality. I am supposed to show things that are happening around and whether people like it or not it is a reality. I really feel like the government should do something a little more effective about it… I don’t know, perhaps banning tobacco products as opposed to passing this kind of regulation, which I think is a travesty for filmmakers.

You can see at the beginning and maybe even the interval but doing that in the middle of a scene would break the flow of the story…
It does! Honestly I think is a problem of how people view films in our country, they don’t view it as art. It is only viewed as entertainment or money-spinners. You wouldn’t do it to a painting. You wouldn’t do it to somebody’s book. As a filmmaker I feel I must do something about this. I will be taking some kind of legal recourse once the film is out. This is where things stand for now.

What do you love best about the film?
It’s a very intriguing story being taken forward by some seriously power packed performances. I think that is what I love.

Tell us about creating the music and working with Ram Sampath.
Initially when I was prepping and getting people on board I did meet a bunch of music directors. I felt the kindredness with Ram instantly. I felt our sense of music and our esthetics matched. We kind of liked similar things. He really got the space that I was coming from and what I wanted for the film. I really felt like he was the best person for me to go ahead with. Frankly, after a year and a half when the music is done the background score is done, I really think I was right because he really, really has done a great job.

What do you think of Hindi cinema today?
Things have opened up a lot. Our markets are changing. Our audiences are changing. There is a growth of multiplexes in our country and it is giving life to a situation that is very conducive to an entire range of films and a variety of films being made. I think that is a sign of a healthy industry where an audience can choose from a variety and a range of films and filmmakers have the freedom to choose from a variety and range of films and concepts to explore.

What can audiences expect to see when they come see Talaash?
A gripping story and Talaash is unusual because it has some very strong emotional content. In spite of all the suspense in the film it is still one man’s very emotional journey. And the story is being taken forward by some great actors giving great performances.

Talaash opens worldwide on November 30th!

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