The provocative noir experience that "Talaash" promises, with its jazzily scored, moodily lighted opening montage of a Mumbai red-light district at night, is nowhere to be found once this meandering mystery begins.
Sparked by the enigmatic death of a Bollywood star, co-writer/director Reema Kagti's narrative tracks the investigation, its effect on the slum denizens who had shady dealings with the dead actor, and the grief-stricken home life of Inspector Surjan (a severely mustachioed Aamir Khan) and his teary wife (Rani Mukerji), who lost their son in a tragic accident.
Floating in and out of the action is an alluring prostitute (Kareena Kapoor, effortlessly sexy), who is either trying to seductively distract our grim-faced hero or help him solve the case.
Though suffused with a certain humanism about shattered lives and wretched souls, as a movie it's got minimal momentum, with scenes routinely feeling disconnected from each other as Kagti tries to juggle mournful family drama, societal underbelly empathy and police procedural, without ever staying ahead of any half-awake moviegoer.
The normally charismatic Khan is almost unbearably morose here, but Mukerji manages to apply some radiance to her melancholy.
Ultimately the movie's many strands come together for a final twist, but it's too little too late for this regrettably mediocre Bollywood import.