“Tum dur thay, to kia hua! Tum mil gaye, to kia hua! Veeraaniyan, kam na hueen! Tanha tha main, tanha raha!” are verses from, Tum Mil Gaye, one of the masterpieces from Vital Signs’ first album. Songs like these reflect upon the deepest problems of the human condition, expressed in simple language and metaphors. But a lukewarm response to this reflection made the band change gears as they went on to make classics like Goray Rung Ka Zamana and Sanwli Saloni, to name a few. Such hits are still very popular but do they have the same impact as Tum Mil Gaye? Not really.
Imtiaz Ali’s Tamasha follows a similar trajectory and ironically, a song that appears in the film is quite similar to Tum Mil Gaye. “Tum sath ho, ya na ho, kia farq hai, bedard thi zindagi, bedard hai.” And like the verses, the film itself attempts to explore an existential take on the concept of love but succumbs to self-destruction as the director ends up giving something a lot more fulfilling than what the audience is prepared to consume. It may have been a more satisfying end to the film for the audience, but something so safe is not expected from a risk-taking film-maker like Ali who seemingly gave in to Bollywood conventions right after he had raised himself above them with Highway.
Speaking of which, Tamasha in many ways is a sister film of Highway; it is exactly what Black Swan was to Darren Arnofsky’s The Wrestler: a particular form of struggle explored from a different tangent in a follow-up film. The only problem is that Tamasha is not Highway, but the director choses to treat it like Highway and that is where the problems begin, turning an intense drama of human emotion into an epic of self-discovery.
Tara Maheshwari (Deepika Padukone) loses her passport in the French city of Corsica and she has no help in the alien land. In comes Ved (Ranbir Kapoor), who introduces himself with a dialogue from Don and offers to help Maheshwari, who introduces herself as Mona Darling, joining the filmi conversation. Here begins a journey of two strangers who never disclose their real identity to each other but roam around the city as random tourists. Maheshwari’s passport arrives after a week or so and she leaves for India with a sense of doubt and disbelief about the time she spent in Corsica.
Years pass by and she turns down many guys, still looking for the stranger she met in Corsica. And one fine day she runs into him and henceforth begins another journey of two people who are not strangers any more.
The film is clearly a modern representation of the folktales of the subcontinent and the montages showing Romeo and Juliet, Ram and Sita, and Laila and Majnu only make the subtlety more obvious. But a Romeo of today comes with his share of social pressures and complexes, which make Ranbir’s character and the film a lot more engaging. He manages to take the physicality of his character from Rockstar and internalises it with grace and through a wide range of human emotions.
There is not much detail to Deepika’s character as she fits the role of a stranger-turned-best friend and mentor for Ranbir. She acts more like a prop in front of a much dynamic Ranbir who gets solid support from supporting actors Piyush Mishra and Javed Sheikh.
Having said that, the film has a very engaging first half and the impeccable visuals and exposition techniques continue to amuse you half-an-hour after the interval. However, the film takes an altogether different dimension before the climax and offers a pointlessly elongated epilogue for a story that could have ended 40 minutes earlier.
Verdict: Great music, exceptional performances and a different take on love don’t prevent Imtiaz Ali’s Tamasha from culminating in a disappointment.
Agar Tum Sath Ho – Tamasha:
Tum Dur Thay – Vital Signs:
Published in The Express Tribune, November 30th, 2015.