MUSKAANEIN JHOOTHI HAIN- An Ode to Grief and Hypocrisy

Muskaane jhooti hai Pehchanein jhooti hai Rangeeni hai chhayi Phir bhi hai tanhaayi

Talaash: The Answer Lies Within, is not a movie you can forget easily, especially if you watched it in your formative teenage years. A noir stylised thriller involving a millionaire’s death, the story is an insight into the hypocritical, distanced and lonely lives of the city’s most notorious and essential elements- policemen and prostitutes, told via the murky roads of Mumbai’s red-light areas.

The music of the film also bears a special significance in elevating the range of emotions the characters go through. While other songs occur in a natural consequence to the story, “Muskaanein Jhoothi hain” appears in the end, with its video being independent of its actual story. But the song still plays with the themes and the conflicts of the film and doesn’t end up being promotional fodder divorced from the intention of the film.

The opening instrumentals set the mood for a mystery with style and all the jazz hooks you for the unseen shades of Bombay. But as the song goes further, it catches you off guard with its thought-provoking lyrics calling out on the double standards of society and discusses how the quest for freedom from our demons is what binds us all together, no matter how much we try to separate ourselves from others.

This article attempts to decode various parts of the song in correlation to the movie’s plot. (MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD)

Halke ujaalo mein

Halke andhero mein jo ik raaz hai Kyu kho gaya hai woh

Kya ho gaya hai ki woh naraaz hai Aye raat itna bataa, tujhko to hoga pata

Behind the rough and strict Inspector, there is a troubled father who is haunted by the ghosts of his eight-year-old son’s accidental death. This guilt drifts him further away from his grieving wife, Roshni, and closer to Rosie, a breathtakingly beautiful and mysteriously melancholic sex worker, one night at a time. The guilt of being almost there for his son soon changes to being never there for his wife and Rosie... well she is just there, with her comforting smile and odd life lessons. Two lonely souls cross paths to become even lonelier, but still better understood. The understated dynamic of Surjan and Rosie, where neither can “complete” each other in the traditional sense, but still guide each other home, defines the importance of being able to grieve, in peace and with company.

Grief turns you distant from your loved ones like Surjan got from Roshni. Roshni literally translates to “light” which symbolises optimism and hope but these become alien concepts to the grieving soul. We relate to the “night”- and as an extension to “Rosie” whom Surjan would have never befriended otherwise, as the night now speaks to his ideas of pain and its dark and villainous image in the shatters in the process as we realise our hearts house much darker demons inside. We seek answers from the night but when life happens to us, the most important life lesson we need to learn is that life runs in the grey. It’s never too dark and never too bright. We never live in monotones. Roshni and Rosie, both become essential in the redemption journey of Surjan in their own ways, which he can’t separate. And neither should he anyway. This little secret of balance, can’t be learnt until we have lived the darkest of our times. This lesson of acceptance of our biggest losses and still living a life worth it is what Talaash captures and how!

Raat mein hi jaagte hain Yeh gunaahon ke ghar Inki raahein khole baahein jo bhi aaye idhar

The raw dissing of the people who look down upon “dirty” professions like prostitution but venture into its lanes in the darkest of their times defines Rosie’s struggle with her identity and the unapologetic opening lyrics of the song speak volumes of Rosie as a character who likes calling a spade a spade.

Through subtle dialogues, we can see Surjan despises her profession but respects and admires her as an individual. Bearing the conventional mindset about prostitution, he, not so surprisingly, also finds himself embracing his most vulnerable and dark side in front of a prostitute. Because in his subconscious, he is aware how she can never be a part of his world, and so neither will his deepest secrets see the light of the day which will be discovered and drowned in the dead of the night. His duality of being is beautifully complemented by the dual state of Rosie’s identity, or lack thereof, and sheds light on the horrors of the lies we live in the hypocritical world. Talaash has been marketed as a “Psychological supernatural thriller”, which it is, but while a few thrillers live their course after a couple of viewings, purely for want of thrill, Talaash stays for its strong understanding of the complex human emotions of grief and insecurities that accompany lack of recognition and acceptance.

Jo rooh pyaasi hai Jismein udaasi hai Woh hai ghoomti Sabko talaash wohi Samjhe ye kaash koi

Roshni was equally shaken by her son’s death, but it has been time since the accident and she has learnt to cope up with the loss, sometimes by socialising and seeking comfort with friends and family, and sometimes by getting involved with a psych next door and diving into the supernatural beliefs. Questionable yes, but she owns up to her need to be “ridiculous” at the moment. She also turns a blind eye to rumours of Surjan getting involved with a sex worker and didn’t question his system of grief until he questioned hers. Roshni’s emotional intelligence is contrasted by Surjan’s complexes, a Police Officer who by job description and by masculine imagery, is expected to be “protective” and “tough”- something he couldn’t be for his son and now projects his feelings of guilt and inadequacy by bottling up his emotions. But why does he then open up to Rosie?

Roshni and Surjan are both going through the same struggles and though their path of redemption may be different, their destination was the same. During the entire story, Roshni tries reaching out to Surjan, which again was beautifully portrayed by the song “Jee Le Zara”, and then one day, he finally comes around. Meeting another lost soul (Rosie) along the road and finding his answers in her story makes him empathetic to Roshni in return. He stops compartmentalizing behaviour and started understanding the underlying emotions behind her actions. This way, even Rosie, who was till then seen as a potential threat to their marriage, becomes a saviour instead, and the story yet again justifies the beauty of ridiculousness while confronting unparalleled emotions.

I want to end this article on a note of gratitude for the Writer-Director Reema Kagti and co- writer Zoya Akhtar for blessing Bollywood with this brave and unconventional take on this tried and tested subject matter and also for roping in the brilliant musician Ram Sampath who curated a diverse and befitting soundtrack that covers a multitude of emotions and situations that weaves the elements of the story harmoniously.


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