Movie Review: Tamasha

November 27, 2015

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

If there is one thing to be said for Imtiaz Ali’s films, they are intensely personal statements. Whether you identify with his films or not mostly depends on whether your life experiences match those of his characters. If you’ve been slighted in love or had a long-distance relationship or missed a train, you are likely to show empathy. If not, he can be difficult to decipher – at least if his recent films are anything to go by.

“Rockstar”Handout still from the film "Tamasha", “Highway” and now “Tamasha” show Ali is not content with telling straightforward stories. He wants to add some complexity, some depth. Sometimes it works, like in “Highway”. Sometimes, it doesn’t, like in “Rockstar” and in “Tamasha”.

There is a bit of philosophy, some over-the-top emotion, and incoherent ranting in Ali’s latest film — all in the guise of a romance that morphs into a coming-of-age tale. Just like his protagonist, Ved (Ranbir Kapoor), Ali’s story blows hot and cold, going from the whimsical to the incoherent in a few scenes.

In the beginning though, the director fools his audience into thinking that “Tamasha” is a good, old-fashioned romance, starting his story in Corsica where we meet Ved and Tara (Deepika Padukone), the only two Indians on the gorgeous French island. Just like the characters in Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunrise”, they decide to spend time with each other, but on a condition. They don’t reveal their true identities, pretending to be characters from the campy 70’s crime capers and addressing each other in dialogue from those movies.

In spite of their decision never to meet again, Tara finds herself unable to move beyond that magical week in Corsica. Four years later, she tracks down Ved, only to find a boring, corporate slave who  doesn’t remotely resemble the man she fell in love with.

Handout still from the film "Tamasha"Ali uses this romance as a catalyst for the real story – Ved’s self-discovery and his inability to understand what he truly wants out of life. This is where “Tamasha” veers into fairy-tale territory and goes off the beaten path, so to speak. There are scenes from the Ramayana where Ved imagines himself as literary characters from all ages, narrates stories to strangers and even inserts them into his humdrum power-point presentations at work, much to the horror of his boss.

Romance goes out of the window and Ved’s angst comes right in, but it seems Ali tries to pack in too much. Since he is caught up in issues with Tara, his family, the boss and himself, Ved has too much going on in his life and 151 minutes isn’t enough to cover it.

To be fair, both Kapoor and Padukone are in fine form, playing off each other brilliantly. Kapoor shows glimpses of his role in “Rockstar” as the tortured soul looking for release, and Padukone is luminous as the seemingly perfect Tara willing to accept our flawed hero unconditionally. Their scenes together are the best in the film.

“Tamasha” is not an easy film to slot. Ali is obviously trying to push his boundaries and it doesn’t always work, but when it does, the result is breathtaking. For that alone, the film is worth a watch.

(Editing by Ankush Arora; follow Shilpa on Twitter @shilpajay, and Ankush @Ankush_patrakar. This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

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