New Delhi: 'The butler is the killer' - the classic cliché of whodunit writing has plagued literature for decades. Let's face it, from the moment a gripping murder mystery opens to the house, we become obsessed with spotting the killer before anyone else. There's nothing more satisfying that a self pat on the back for correctly identifying the hand that held the knife.
Writers Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle made a career of this morbid curiosity. It is generally accepted that readers of Mary Roberts Rinehart's 1930 novel 'The Door' earned the disrepute for giving out the spoiler 'the butler is the killer' before people have had the chance to read the novel. In The Door's case, the butler was the killer. But coming back to the subject at hand, the mystery of 'Talaash' was equally at the risk of being revealed before its time. It was.
The plot of 'Talaash' had to be a more closely guarded secret than the film Joker's actual collection. Friday, November 30, that would decide whether Reema Kagti's thriller had what it takes to compete with some superlative films this year, was a goner from the moment smirking, self congratulatory men and women who have already seen the film started posting shuttered hints and open spoilers on social media websites.
The problem with Twitter and Facebook, as users must know already, is that even if you did not 'follow' the people responsible for giving out the ending of a film, someone else you know does and retweets it so that it shows up on your timeline. It's an inescapable cycle that has caused much bad blood in the past in the case of book reviews, film plot points and mystery writings.
It's an invasion of another proportion. People complained their friends informed them about the Talaash ending on Whatsapp, Facebook, BBM and Twitter.
Film critic Aniruddha Guha quipped: "In Hindi cinema, no spoiler has led to as much hair-pulling, or driven as many people up the wall, as these four words: 'Kajol is the murderer'".
Writer Arnab Ray, whose psychological thriller 'The Mine' hit the stands in January this year said he was "petrified" of people giving out the twist at the end of his book.
"In the age of social media it's impossible to keep a secret. Especially since the basic twist of a movie or a book can be given in 140 characters. Kajol is the killer. Bruce Willis is dead. One doesn't need to say anything else. And people love to do this. It's a killer for suspense movies/books - the people who write them. It's so easy to kill business," Ray said.
Despite a passionate appeal from actor Farhan Akhtar (who has produced the film) and lead protagonist Aamir Khan to fans to not reveal the ending of 'Talaash', those who caught the film on Friday early shows, did it anyway.
Actor Siddharth tweeted: "Don't go around giving out the ending of Talaash or any new mystery film...it just makes you a loser...now beyond that it's up to you...loser!"
It also started a spoof trend of Twitter hash tag of #TalaashSpoilers with people tweeting utterly improbable things that may or may not be actual spoilers. Mostly, it was harmless fun.
"In the end you find out it was an episode of Satyameva Jayate," was popular user @GabbbarSingh's contribution to the #TalaashSpoilers tag.
But Kamal R Khan, who directed and acted in the 2008 film Deshdrohi took it on himself to let his readers know whether the film was worth watching or not. He On Friday tweeted spoilers about 'Talaash' much to the chagrin of most people. He defended himself on Twitter saying he is saving the audience their money with his critical review of the film.
But indie filmmaker and journalist Sudhish Kamath's irate tweet said it all. "Want to gun down you bastards giving away ending/spoilers on social networking sites... just because your Mum didn't know Who's Your Daddy?! No fun once you know the ending. Reviews ruined it for me. Don't read anything on the film. Go watch. Well crafted thriller."
Why do people break the tacit understanding between the writer of a crime thriller and his audience? Is there a twisted pleasure in letting others in on the big secret? Or are we simply incapable of keeping a secret?
The larger problem that Indian filmmakers and writers have to sort out is how to keep the story under wraps in the time of omniscient social media. There is a lesson to be learnt here from Western publishers and production houses. JK Rowling's Harry Potter stories were jealously guarded until the morning of their release. No amount of media prying or speculation mattered to the outcome in sales. We really need to manage our suspense better.