Review: Tamasha (2015)

Tamasha (Dir.: Imtiaz Ali; Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Piyush Mishra et al.)

Ritwik Ghatak peeks through in a frame when Ranbir Kapoor’s Ved and Deepika Padukone’s Tara enter to watch a film in Tamasha. Ritwik Ghatak was a man who did not compromise with his art for the sake of making it easier for the audience. An uncompromising stance is difficult to keep under the threat of commercial demands – expectations to rake up the numbers when you have stars like Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone in your line-up. Yet Imtiaz Ali largely stays true to his story in Tamasha, which is also why it hurts in the moments he wavers.

(Possible spoilers ahead!)

The film opens with the tracing of the common thread that runs through myths, epics and legends separated by centuries and oceans. The film seems to want to tune down viewers’ expectations, proclaiming it pointless to expect new stories every time, rather advocating the learning of seeking joy in the timeless great tales, retold in varied flavours, packaged in new bottles over the times. Yet, in the same breath, this is a nod to the power of stories and the resulting value of storytellers in the lives and societies of men. Stories are an integral part of the story of Tamasha, as also its recurrent theme.
Tamasha is a story of self-discovery, stitched on the contour of the never-dying love story  – with happy beginnings and climax bridged by crises. But the template is, daringly for a full-on mainstream venture with commercial ambitions strung high, barely there to hold the story’s shape rather than drench the underlying tale with its saccharine, bells and whistles.

At the core of this beautiful film lies the question of, rather the choice of mustering the courage to, face one’s own heart, march in step to one’s inner tune. Ranbir Kapoor deserves as least as much accolades as Imtiaz Ali, for betting on another unconventional tale. Here’s the actor who passed with flying colours as the salesman Rocket Singh and woke up to his life as Sid a few years back. Ranbir’s choices have favoured the interesting over the safe earlier too, and he usually puts the weight of his acting skills behind those choices. Tamasha features another refreshing act by him. The multi-layered character of Ved Shahni requires more than his dancing shoes and he responds to the challenge, in all three acts of the tamasha.

The non-compromise referred to earlier is demonstrated by the absence of superfluous characters, time instead spent on the protagonist’s journey (safar) to self-discovery. The lion’s share of screen time is dedicated to the duo of Ranbir and Deepika Padukone. One only wishes Imtiaz went a bit light on the theatricals in the middle third as it became somewhat distracting, even gallery-sympathizing.

Deepika Padukone does well to provide Ranbir Kapoor the perfect foil. Of the handful of non-primary characters, the storyteller from Ved’s childhood strikes out as the linchpin, essayed in masterful elegance by Piyush Mishra.

The music – orchestrated by A R Rahman – is melodious and soothing through its rising and falling paces. Alka Yagnik delivers a signature melody. Mohit Chauhan, Lucky Ali and Mika Singh do full justice to compositions that seem to be tailor-made for them, but my personal favourite is the thematic Chali Kahaani by Sukhwinder Singh, Haricharan and Haripriya, weaving the thread through everlasting stories bridging centuries and civilizations.

Ved might be Imtiaz Ali’s avatar for the storyteller he is, the film being a reflection of itself. But then, Ved could have been a hockey player or a tabla player or a bodybuilder or a scientist. The pluck to take off the mask that society likes to watch you play in, is what Tamasha champions, and it’s in this stand that it stands out like a rose in the bush of mediocrity spanning from one Friday to the next.

Tamasha IMDb Link

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