Tamasha

tamasha-poster

Tamasha
Release date: November 27, 2015
Directed by: Imtiaz Ali
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Piyush Mishra, Javed Sheikh, Vivek Mushran, Istiyak Khan

Tamasha is not a “rom-com” as you may have been led to believe by any person, living or dead; any source, correct or invalid. If it were just a “love story”, I’d call it lopsided, as I often blame Imtiaz Ali’s constructed romances of being that way. Right from the start of the film, it gives you a lot to chew on: a running gag between a clown and a Tin Man-like robot which soon transcends into a small backstory of one of the film’s protagonists, which is interspersed by flashes of tales that the said protagonist heard from an old storyteller in Shimla.

Then, it’s untidily divided into four chapters. “Teja Ka Sona”, “Ishk Wala Love”, “Andar Ki Baat” and “Don Returns”. Two good looking strangers from India meet each other in Corsica, France. They promise to not reveal their identity or anything about their lives, that they wouldn’t try to chase the other once they’re back in India. The man assumes the name “Don”, after the fictional character played by Amitabh Bachchan in the ’70s. The woman takes off after another popular character from the same era, and calls herself “Mona Darling”. They talk in pop references and chirp on without the possibility of any future between them.

The woman remains to be infatuated with the man, even years after they’ve gone their different ways. She traces him down to his usual bar and introduces herself as Tara (Deepika Padukone) and gets to know his actual name, Ved (Ranbir Kapoor). This man, is quite unlike the Don in Corsica, Tara observes. He looks at the watch every time he leaves her house, yes-mans his way to a successful job, isn’t very interesting at all. He’s almost robotic. Uses the electric toothbrush, washes his car, knots his tie, all in clockwork fashion. None of it is exactly a bad thing per se, it’s just he’s never himself, or as Tara puts it, “Tum koi aur ho“, that he isn’t what he shows.

Tara’s disillusionment with Ved’s changed demeanor triggers the “Don” in him. He lashes out in spurts, going back to his showy, loud and “fun” ways, in the middle of corporate presentations. He gets reprimanded by his boss (Vivek Mushran) and teeters on the verge of losing his job. He doesn’t know what to do.

There’s a whole lotta ‘he’ doing a lot of running and panting after a wedge is driven between her and him. He’s set on a course of self-discovery and self-realization, where interestingly the romantic partner doesn’t feature in extensive long montages. It’s all about him. It isn’t even love for someone else that drives him. That is what differentiates this film from Imtiaz Ali’s other films. Ved is striving to break free from his own partly self-imposed mediocrity. He doesn’t blame anyone, how a younger Ved could have. Perhaps his father, or the society or his entire family. This older Ved doesn’t. He understands that his packaging as a manufactured sales manager has as much to do with himself as well.

The level of acceptance for this man’s antics could depend on your threshold for man-child like behaviour, yet in one of those moments, his conversation with a rickshaw driver (Istiyak Khan) occurs. The whole sequence is simply magical. As a matter of fact, there aren’t many ensemble characters here, just like other Ali films, but Vivek Mushran as the grammatically incorrect boss and Istiyak Khan as the surrendered rickshaw driver pull as much traction as they can with their pitch perfect performances.

Tamasha struggles to keep the balance intact between being a commercial venture and a self-indulgent story. There are songs thrust, just to infuse “life” in the events for the casual viewer. Probably, even to change the flow of the film at a whim. There are exuberant innovative cuts to stories that Ved relates his life situations with, and then there are times when the film obnoxiously gets meta or maybe deliberately dumbs down the proceedings to flash “flashback” in a FLASHBACK sequence.

Deepika Padukone’s natural charisma is ever-so-omnipresent and her chemistry with Kapoor is formidable, yet never fully utilized to extract the pulp out of it. Ranbir Kapoor has the film thrown into his kitty, which he catches quite easily. It’s too much of the same old characterization for him to work his socks off. He mimics Dev Anand very well too, and that is a revelation. His character is hard to emphasize with right until the third act of the film, which doesn’t work in the film’s favor. But hey, who’d wanna see a “whiny, crying loser” for two-thirds of the film?

Flashes of brilliance are aplenty and A.R. Rahman’s compositions are affluent in their short and diverse range. They get Alka Yagnik and Sukhvinder Singh to sing perfectly timed relevant songs! The track with Piyush Mishra as the old storyteller deserves a special mention for itself. You have to watch the film for that.

You could be someone who’s living someone else’s story and waiting for a storyteller to tell you the outcome of your own life’s story, or you could simply write one for yourself. Tamasha could not be a very easy film to like, but it’s got so much to give, packed in its runtime of 155 minutes, it’s not fair to call this a poor film.

My rating: *** (3 out of 5)

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