Film Review: 'Tamasha'
Opened: 27 November 2015
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Javed Sheikh, Piyush Mishra, Nikhil Bhagat, Faraaz Servaia, Punam Singh
Director: Imtiaz Ali
Producer: Sajid Nadiadwala
If it's a light frothy romance with some cutesy moments between Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone you were after, I suggest you look away right now. Imtiaz Ali's Tamasha is a complex, intricate film that delves deep into the human psyche and challenges the core of our very belief systems, whereby we choose to live by societal norms instead of accepting and cherishing the uniqueness of our quirks, our flaws, our talents and celebrating ourselves as individuals.
At its heart is a complicated love story, and like most Imtiaz Ali films, a coming of age tale that takes its own sweet time to unravel, but once it's very imperfect and extremely relatable characters engage you, you're there. You're a part of their world, a world that's so carefree, so put on, such a facade one minute, and so stifled, so contrived and so monotonous the next. It's hands down not just one of Ali's better films, but undoubtedly one of Kapoor's and Padukone's finest acts – not a flippant comment by any means, given Padukone's (recent) track record and Kapoor's filmography, at least before his hat-trick of well documented duds, which we won't get into here.
Tamasha's narrative unfolds in a non-linear fashion, flitting between Ved's childhood, which he spends, essentially, in a world of imagination and to his present where he's stuck in a dead end, nine to five job, while in the interim, we get a glimpse into his love story with Tara (Padukone, spellbindingly natural), who he meets while holidaying in Corsica. They vow to make the most of their time together, with just one caveat. That they'll lie about who they really are and instead, just enjoy being in the moment. In the few days that they spend together, both put on a facade, but Tara upon her return, spends years ruminating about what might have been had they not cut their holiday romance short.
As fate would have it their paths do cross years later, with just one difference. Reality. And when that seeps in, it jades even the most optimistic among us, and however hard we try we can't recreate the throws of passion that we may have once felt in the distant past in an era gone by. Ved and Tara face the same conundrum. How real was that passion when the people involved were essentially fibbing about who they were? And can you essentially spend your life with the reality of someone when you're in love with an idea of them... an idea where they presented themselves in the best possible light? How long is it before their mask drops and you realise how flawed they really are?
It's all very intense and heavy, and potentially may not resonate with audiences that just want to let their hair down, but for many of us, deprived of quality films in the past year, Tamasha is something of a small triumph, a relief, in a year filled with sub-standard garbage churned out to conform to the dictates of the box office.
Thank god then. That we still have Imtiaz Ali. A man who still wants to tell stories and delve into human emotions – emotions that most filmmakers wouldn't have the balls to touch with a barge pole. Thank god for cinematographers like Ravi Varman who capture the beauty of serene Corsica making it akin to an ethereal painting which serves as the perfect landscape, for Ved and Tara's make believe romance. Thank god for the genius that is Rahman, who's tunes add depth, character, pain, heartbreak and dimension to an already beautiful film. Thank god for Deepika Padukone, who yet again proves why she's one of the finest actresses in recent times, and is someone who continually strives to better herself with each film and at least attempts to push the envelope as far as she can. Tamasha isn't entirely her film. In fact she's absent for much of the latter part of it, while sportingly letting Kapoor take centre stage, but she's every bit the heart and soul of it. With another actress it could have easily fallen flat, but Padukone gives Tara depth, edge, vulnerability, strength, confusion and a gamut of emotions in a way that only she can.
The film though ultimately belongs to Ranbir Kapoor. Anyone wanting a masterclass in acting, should perhaps watch him in this film. He's nothing short of mesmeric, letting his eyes speak volumes and acing even the most inconsequential of scenes. Whether Tamasha is the elusive success he was looking for remains to be seen, but it is undoubtedly a film that will add credibility to his already varied arsenal – at least the man takes risks, irrespective of whether they pay off or not. That his chemistry with Padukone enchants goes without saying and together they inevitably create magic in a romance that's anything but convoluted and comes as something of a surprise given that the buzz surrounding it was mostly flat.
Many would argue though that Ali's film is bloated and a little self indulgent in parts – it could have been trimmed by at least twenty minutes and a lot of it may get lost in translation especially the sequences involving Ved's childhood and the references to mythology, but these are perhaps minor gripes with a filmmaker who's genuinely passionate about his craft, so can be overlooked.
To sum up, Tamasha isn't everyone's idea of escapism – many will struggle with it's pace, but it's the most captivated I've been with a romance for a while – it has something to say, a message which however flawed, makes the cut because of it's dazzling lead duo who leave you in awe with their range. Four stars, and easily one of the better films of the year.