Climax under wraps
It is tough to keep up the suspense of a crime thriller in these times of publicity overdrive and frantic social networking sites
Deepa Ranade

Arushi murder, Kahaani and many other such cases and events were attributed to the climax of Aamir Khan’s latest release — Talaash. Aamir Khan had deliberately adopted the policy of under publicising the film, he reasoned, "Sometimes being quiet also might promote it. Talaash is an intense suspense drama... so I don’t want to be talking about the film everywhere. I want the suspense to be there, that’s part of the promotions," he added.

Director Reema Kagti elaborated in the same vein, "Given how aggressive other films are when it comes to being visible, it is a smart thing not to go to over the top."

Co-star Kareena Kapoor-Khan also subscribed to her hero’s views, "I feel films are being publicised too much these days and it makes actors come across like monkeys, shouting, screaming and dancing." Their ploy of underplaying the cards has indeed worked wonders in saving the suspense of the film.

The Rashomon effect

Defined as "the effect of the subjectivity of perception on recollection" or simply put - multiple interpretations of the same event, it is named after Akira Kurosawa’s Japanese crime thriller Rashomon which had four witnesses giving four different accounts of the same crime. In Hindi cinema, multiple endings have been tried unsuccessfully in Prateik Babbar starrer Ekk Deewana Tha. Earlier endings were re-shot only to suit the actor/writer/Censor Board’s demands as in Sholay, Ardha Satya, Department and Cocktail. But the idea of ‘alternate ending’ or director’s cut remains unexplored by Bollywood.

The promotion strategy for a crime thriller has to be carefully thought-out, as it is hinged on its climax. It becomes imperative to safeguard suspense.

"The only way to plug the climax leak is to shoot multiple ends as is a popular practice in Hollywood. Way back Casablanca was to have two ends, then Clue, Final Destination, Terminator, I Am Legend and Run Lola Run also had multiple endings that were either retained in the film or included in the DVD later. Also the cast and crew of the film must be put under a strict non-disclosure clause," suggests trade analyst, N P Yadav.

Some spoilsports take perverse pleasure in revealing the "end" and killing the suspense element like they did with Rajiv Rai’s 1997 thriller Gupt. Mass messages were circulated revealing Kajol as the murderer. Aamir Khan had suggested circulating multiple false endings in order to flummox the internet junkies and other killjoys.

The other effective way in to incorporate heavy duty shock elements at regular intervals in the film, as Yadav points out, "Half-hourly twists and turns to the plot like in Race can keep the suspense ticking."

Talaash with its undulating, tale-spin has been able to satiate the viewers as well as the critics. If it grossed a sizeable opening of Rs 16 crore in India, it also had the critics hailing it as "dramatic and absorbing", "thrilling and enticing" and as "intelligently constructed". As Steven Spielberg says, "a good story is the key element to any film genre, including thrillers".

The earliest record of thrillers dates back to Alfred Hitchcock, who scared the wits out of his viewers with thrillers like Psycho, Dial M for Murder and Vertigo, Brian de Palma’s Sisters, Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs, Joseph Ruben’s Sleeping with the Enemy and Spielberg’s Jaws, Indiana Jones and his latest historical thriller Lincoln — hold a special draw yet.

Bollywood has effectively used haunting music and the supernatural element in most thrillers — Woh Kaun Thi, Humraaz, Mera Saaya, Kohra, Dhund, Teesri Manzil, Bees Saal Baad, Mahal , and in the recent times Raaz, Khiladi, Murder and Soldier have kept the goose-bumpy chills and thrills coming. Close on the heels of Talaash, the suspense genre will make a big comeback in 2013 with Table No. 21, Race 2, Murder 3, Special Chabbis by Neeraj Pandey (of A Wednesday fame), Shootout at Wadala and Ragini MMS 2.

"The noir genre had a special appeal," B R Chopra had said. But the suspense must be closely guarded. The father of suspense-thriller genre, Alfred Hitchcock put it so well, "Suspense is like a woman. The more left to the imagination, the more the excitement. ... The conventional big-bosomed blonde is not mysterious. And what could be more obvious than the old black velvet and pearls type? The perfect ‘woman of mystery’ is one who is blonde, subtle and Nordic."

So, neither watertight non-disclosure contracts nor multiple endings have so far been able to save the climax. But the engaging plot of Talaash, which is full of twists, has successfully warded off net and mobile marauders from giving away the suspense element. The deployment of Rashomon effect coupled with abundant shock elements in the script have made Talaash a true thriller.