2015 / Hindi / Movie Review

Tamasha (2015)

Dekh Tamasha Dekh!

If your grouse with Tamasha is that “…it’s the same damn story”, then just give the poster a second glance that clearly states:

Why Always the Same Story?

If that disclaimer doesn’t satisfy you, there’s a moment in the film, when the storyteller, the fakir like austere Piyush Mishra, proclaims in his baritone voice to the wimpish child (a young Ranbir Kapoor), that will:

…call them by any name—Ibrahim or Abraham, Moses or Musa, Jesus or Isa Masih, Samyukta or Sanyukta, Heer or Juliet—aren’t they all the same characters and the same stories?

Tamasha_Poster

Mythical

And that, dear reader, is what Tamasha is all about: a celebration of every story, fairytale, mythology, folklore or fable you’ve ever known; a celebration of storytelling itself and by that extension a celebration of cinema. For, no matter how old or new the story, its core is essentially the same. The uniqueness is not in the story itself but in the telling.

Writers, filmmakers, historians, painters, and musicians, everyone is jumping on to the mythology/folklore bandwagon. Director Imtiaz Ali too taps into this zeitgeist to essentially give us the same Heer-Ranjha saga from his perspective.

Deepika Ranbir

Neeche Utar Saale!

Ali revisits his favorite tropes of meeting, separation, realization, and reunion and yet, consciously or otherwise, he is at his mythical best, depicting the various stages of the hero’s journey or the Monomyth:

  • The Call to Adventure
  • Refusal of the Call
  • Meeting with the Goddess
  • The Road of Trials
  • Supernatural Aid
  • Crossing the Threshold
  • Atonement with the Father
  • Apotheosis
  • Freedom to Live

While Ali might or might not have consciously chosen the Monomyth template, the universal nature of the Monomyth reflects in Tamasha too, self-validating the point that every story is essentially the same.

Tamasha is probably also Imtiaz Ali’s first foray into meta narratives or the metamovie for Tamasha is a story about stories, storytelling, storytellers, and the story-within-the-story. Reason why Tamasha so often treads into the domain of the Absurd. While this hint of Absurdity is not new in Ali’s movies, it sure reaches its zenith in Tamasha, thanks to a liberated performance by Ranbir Kapoor as the lost-and-found soul Ved who needs his soul mate Tara (Deepika Padukone) to show him the mirror to his real inner self. It is in these Absurd moments that Ved goes haywire doing things “normal” people would not. Check out Ved’s tomfoolery while making a corporate presentation or the scene when he’s fired from his job where the Absurdity borders on the bipolar reminding one of Vikram’s character in Anniyan. Another prominent symbolism of Absurdity in the movie, to my eye, is probably the appearance of Joseph Heller’s Absurdist fiction book Catch-22, which plays an important role in taking the narrative forward.

Yet, Tamasha falls short of being Imtiaz Ali’s masterpiece. The didactic tone when Ved feels the need to spell out the story-within-the-story to his Dad and in turn to the audience, or literally to the audience itself in the beginning/climax is superfluous. The jumpy editing lazily employs placards to depict passage of time rather than segue it into the narrative with some action, not to mention the redundant flashbacks that slacken the narrative further. Rahman’s music, although passable and occasionally hummable, sounds like a hangover of Rockstar and is nowhere near the maestro’s best.

Tamasha Still

Picture Perfect

Don’t go into Tamasha expecting a straightforward happy-go-lucky flick like Jab We Met because with each movie Imtiaz Ali’s oeuvre is expanding to include complex characters and narratives even though his core philosophies and stories remain the same. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. As French auteur Jean-Luc Godard once said, “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take things to.” Tamasha takes you to that familiar, beautiful place in your heart that you like to visit again, and again, and again…

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2 thoughts on “Tamasha (2015)

  1. I can see why you would come at this from a love story angle however for me it was a story of one of the countless Indian kids whose creativity is clinically regimented out of them to be one of us rather than be the One… The love interest i presume, like Ranbir and Deepika were added to the movie to make it mainstream and to make money… but if i were to replace the supporting lover with a mother, grand mother or even a psychologist the movie would have still made sense to me… it would have made little lesser money but it would have made sense… I agree that some reactions of the protagonist in normal situations could be construed as absurd but is it possible? i could have said the same thing about a person like Jordon Belfort from the Wolf of New York for e.g…. i have come across many people in my journey, some acquaintainces, some friends who live the life of Ved… many just prod on with life, some descent in to a quite corner and some who just give up… i just asked a simple question, is it possible for someone like Ved to exist? can someone just snap?i went in to the movie hall expecting nothing but came out experiencing a range of emotions… i agree with the statement “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take things to.” but i disagree when you say it is a familiar place…

    • Such a surprise! Thank you for dropping by and sharing your thoughts Vinay. It is only through discussion and intellectual debate that we expand our horizons. So here goes my take.

      You and I are on the same page here 🙂

      I am not seeing this story from a love angle. I haven’t even used the word “love” once in my review or dwell on the aspect of “falling in love”. Although I do mention Heer-Ranjha because I’m coming at this from a mythological/folklore/storytelling angle. And Heer-Ranjha do not just epitomize love but also spirituality. In-fact the story of Heer-Ranjha is only a metaphor for a greater love of the almighty and not necessarily a human love of man and woman. In that sense, the woman in this movie (Tara) acts as a mentor or Goddess who awakens the hero from his stupor of leading a drudgery-filled, robotic life. I chose to focus on the storytelling aspect of the movie much more than the aspect of Ved’s inner-turmoil because I knew everyone will notice Ved’s turmoil and hence I wanted to talk more about the storytelling or the Monomyth. Have you read, or are aware, of the Monomyth? A concept about the hero’s journey conceived by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero With a Thousand Faces. If you see, I’ve mentioned about the various stages the hero goes through in his journey that are similar to the Monomyth. One of them being “Refusal of the Call”. And that is exactly what you are talking about. Ved refuses to heed his inner-voice, succumbs to his Dad and kills his creativity/self/soul to lead a mechanized life. That’s when he “Meets The Goddess” (Tara) and after crossing various thresholds ultimately leads to his “Freedom to Live” life on his own terms. Yes, I did not state all this out loud here and left it as a subtext and for the reader to read up about the Monomyth.

      Yes, Ved exists in all of us. In-fact we all are “Veds”. No one is leading the life they want to and killing their selves just to earn their bread and butter. But you misconstrued the word “absurd”. Unfortunately absurd does not just mean “foolish or nonsense”; one of the meanings of absurd is that, yes, but in the artistic, cinematic and philosophical sense absurdity stands for “the quality and condition of existing in a meaningless and irrational world”. And I don’t say that Ved is absurd, I say that the movie Tamasha treads into the domain of the absurd, which are two different things. And by that I mean that Tamasha treads into the domain where it depicts the conflict between the human tendency to see inherent value and meaning in life, and its inability to find any. I am talking about Absurdism, the philosophy here, and not “absurd” like foolish behavior (the one you talk about from the movie Wolf of Wall Street). A good introduction to Absurdism is Samuel Beckett’s play, Waiting for Godot. Maybe someday we could even go watch the play when it gets staged in Ranga Shankara next and talk more about Absurdism.

      And regarding the “familiar place”. It is familiar not because of the love story angle. It is familiar because all stories are familiar. Every story has a Ved who is in turmoil, fighting his/her demons and trying to make meaning out of life. And like I pointed out in my review, even the director does intend to say that and hence uses the Storyteller character in the movie to state that message. And it is precisely that familiarity I am talking about.

      And about living the life of Ved. Aren’t we all living the life of Ved? I too am one more Ved, another cog in this drudgery filled wheel of life 🙂 At least Ved broke free (because this is cinema and anything is possible) but have we? I, for one, still haven’t. And continue to live life the absurd way, trying to find meaning, trying to find my destination (like the Hero in the Monomyth), in the hope that someday I will redeem myself.

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