Ha ha, not yet. I think I will be more comfortable celebrating next week. But the film's success means I can be what I want to be as a filmmaker, make the films that I want to. I think I've achieved what I set out to achieve. Someone tweeted from Chennai said I got a standing ovation at the end of a screening. I hope he wasn't pulling my leg. Of course there are adverse reactions. Talaash is a film evoking extreme reactions. Either people love or hate it. I hope for the sake of the entire team that the film works. If such films work then others are encouraged to try something different.
There are actually 3 plots in Talaash about Aamir and the murder mystery. Aamir and Rani's marital problems after their son's death and the love story between the pimp Nawazuddin Siddiqui and the prostitute Sheeba Chadha?
I think I've brought three plots from three different genres together in Talaash. I could've made three separate films. The challenge lay in bringing the different genres together.
Would Talaash be as big as Aamir's last blockbuster 3 Idiots?
Was I trying to equal the blockbusters? I don't know…I just hoped it did good business. For me personally there is a feeling of completeness after making Talaash. It was a film I really wanted to make. I waited five years to make Talaash.
You've effectively broken the myth that women directors make women-centric delicate and feminine films?
I am glad you can't tell the director's gender watching Talaash. Even Zoya Akhtar's films are like that. But yes, there is a disgruntled wife in my film, played by Rani. And Aamir does come close to committing adultery with Kareena, if these are traits female directors show. In the one intimate sequence that Kareena shares with Aamir she gives him something he really needs. And it's not sex. It's sleep.
I had several test-screenings where we screened the film to different sections of people. We left out certain scenes and added certain other portions. Based on the comments of focus groups we introduced a bit of explanation about the ending. I even tried removing the clues so that the audience would not know the truth. But without those clues the denouement didn't work.
In your first film Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd too there was this supernatural element with Abhay Deol turning into Superman?
There again I was playing around with the supernatural element arguing that if couples don't have fights they must be super-heroes. I wasn't trying to convince people about the existence of super-heroes.
Talaash is being compared with various Hollywood films on the eerie theme?
People are comparing my film to The Sixth Sense. But come on, Raj Khosla's Woh Kaun Thi did it so many decades ago. To tell you the truth, I don't even believe in ghosts. For me the ghost in Talaash is a metaphor for the unknown. When the story came to Zoya Akhtar and me the treatment was like a full-fledged horror movie. Eventually we made Talaash as a tale of a haunted hero. But he doesn't even realize he is haunted.
Some critics feel Aamir Khan's performance to be excessively reined-in?
He has very tough role. Kareena had the most charismatic presence and best lines. Aamir plays a man in a state of emotional shut-down. My brief to Aamir was to play the cop like Dr Spock in Star Trek. Completely emotion-less. Aamir plays a character who is so emotionally shattered he can't/won't express his feelings. I think he has held the film together with his performance. There are no emotional closures and culminations to a man losing his child. The wound remains. But by the end of the film, he begins to heal. At least he begins to address the issue. That's how I had to leave Aamir's character.
Audiences and critics are raving about the impeccable casting even in the briefest parts?
It was done by Nandini Shrikant. I am so embarrassed that her vast contribution to Talaash has been eclipsed. She had done an excellent job. She kept bringing actors for every character until I was satisfied. The casting managed to give many layers through her casting. Girls playing the prostitutes are all perfectly cast. The Madame of the brothel is played by Gulfam. She is actually a scriptwriter. I just couldn't resist casting her. As for Nawazuddion Siddiqui the minute I met him I knew he was right for the character.
The appeal of a supernatural thriller is over once the mystery is solved during the first viewing. Do you hope for a repeat audience for her film?
Oh, I think people will be go back to see my film just to see where I've screwed up (laughs). As of now, I don't think I have screwed up except for the French manicure that Rani sports as a housewife. It's a small matter. But I should have looked at her fingernails.
Shabana Azmi feels Talaash is the first film in a long time where we actually hear the words in the songs?
Javed Uncle had worked in my first film Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd. I just had tell him the situations and he had the songs ready. The last song 'Lakh Duniya Kahe' came from a sense of personal loss. Javed Uncle has lost three dear friends in the last one year. I lost my Dad. When I went to his house and saw the lyrics I was blown away. It was such a befitting finale to my film. It says what I wanted to hear. That death is not the end of a relationship. There are no simple answers to the question of life and death.
What about comparisons between Talaash to Kahaani?
I haven't seen Kahaani. I've been so busy shooting Talaash I need to catch up with my friends' films. In fact I'm doing a film festival and short-film competition in Assam with four of my filmmaker-friends' works being screened. I am definitely taking Zoya Akhtar and Anurag Kashyap. I am also going to ask Sujoy Ghosh to come along.