Imtiaz Ali’s scripts can be regressive, if you are not attuned to his skillsmanship of dealing with romance in his movies. In all his movies, except Highway (which till date remains my favorite from his lot), he has a reflexive nature to look at love between a man and a woman through a broken prism. His love stories have always been only about love. And I don’t mean that in a less than complimentary manner. If Jab We Met and Love Aaj Kal were more about struggling souls finding true love, Rockstar perhaps was the first shift in gear from the Ali stable, which really drove the search for true love through a deeply disturbed psyche which went looking for a broken heart, all in a quest to create good music. Now in Tamasha, Ali returns to a similar terrain, one that of a disturbed soul looking for true love, but only this time he carefully maneuvers the search and transforms his story into a simpler and perhaps a much more relatable/accessible version of what that disturbed mind is looking for.
The problem with Ali’s transition from being a simple romantic storyteller in Jab we Met to a more intricate and a complex one, the one we get to see in Rockstar and now in Tamasha is that, you either get on with the journey or not. It depends on where as a movie watcher you are able to connect with the characters or with the plot. If you missed the connection early enough, Rockstar and Tamasha are two rides that could end up spinning you down through a tube with bumpy stops, thus putting you through an ordeal, you otherwise wished you had avoided. But if you catch on to the angle that Ali wants us to see through his characters, then, notwithstanding a few slightly stretched out scenes or overdoing of a theme or two during the course of the journey, Imtiaz Ali simply stuns you with his nuanced characterizations and dialogues. And I think that’s where Imtiaz Ali scores big with Tamasha. The characters and the way Ali makes you connect with them, fall for them and feel for them – that is if you get on with the journey early enough.
Why always the same story?
Through Ved (Ranbir Kapoor), the boy who would steal money from his father’s wallet just to listen to stories narrated by this small town storyteller, Imtiaz Ali intricately layers his script (and you) with a well conceived screenplay & images of how epics from all around the world, including India’s own are pretty much woven around the same story. The beautiful overlay of Chali Kahani with this background at the beginning of the movie, pretty much sets the tone for what the viewer should expect in terms of narration for the rest of the movie. Very little has been said about Tara’s background (Deepika Padrone) in the script and I guess that’s because Ali didn’t think that was necessary because his protagonist is Ved. And the broken prism through his narration happens is the one Ved holds.
After setting the backdrop for his protagonist, Ali quickly switches to Corsica, where probably the movie’s breeziest few minutes take place. Even if you end up not liking the movie as a whole, those 15-20 minutes of the movie set in Corsica alone is worth your trip to the movie theater. Be it Rahman’s brilliance in Parade de La Bastille which smoothly transitions to Matargasthi, or Ali’s brilliance in etching out the carefree moments that Ved and Tara need to be in their ‘role-played characters’, I can’t but imagine how every guy wanted to be that Ved for a few minutes and every girl wanted to be that Tara for those few minutes, Corsica or not. Yes, it may have gotten a bit stretched out – those role playing moments, but if you simply gave into the flow, which is exactly Ved wants to do, one would understand how those moments in Corsica build up Tara’s expectations for what were to follow.
As Tara lands in Kolkata, the song Heer to badi sad hai (with some enjoyable lighthearted lyrics by Irshad Kamil) is played. Much like Wat Wat that comes later on during Ved’s epiphany sort of a moment, I couldn’t quite connect the jazzy or loud juxtaposition of these songs, although I loved the total abstractness of the same. Tara’s persistence eventually leads her to Delhi where she tracks down Ved, who contrary to what Tara was imagining, is caught in his own spiral downfall of living his life, playing by the rules set by others on how life should be lived. This is when Ali tries too hard to have his audience connect with Ved and his internal struggle to come to terms with the distance between his heart and the world. Ved takes time to realize why Tara is in love with him and what he needs to do. But those moments of epiphany, both when he talks to his dad about it and when he randomly connects with that auto driver and his roadside restaurant pedestrians through Wat Wat, somehow didn’t stand out when compared to those simple flashback images of his childhood.
In Ali, Rahman has a reliable ally, a filmmaker who respects his music and weaves his scenes around his music. Ali has so much reverence for his movie’s music and what Rahman does for him. It was evident in Rockstar (of course), but in Highway and Tamasha, Ali takes the most difficult path to show his reverence for Rahman. Except Matargasthi, none of the other songs have a true bollywood setting and yet, they all fit in perfectly. As if the songs were fit in first before Ali wrote his script. Chali Kahani and Tu Koyi Aur Hai were very artistically spliced to spruce up Ali’s narration and they worked so well. I hope Rahman continues to derive creative satisfaction doing projects like these because there aren’t too many filmmakers like this anymore who can stay current with the trends in moviemaking and yet, stay true to their beliefs on songs being an integral part of movies.
With Tamasha, Imtiaz Ali once again tells the same story. The story of a disturbed male protagonist getting lost in a maze of love and his struggle to reach his lover, who makes him realize who he really is.
The last few seconds (when both the lead characters are shown listening to music with their headphones on, while we don’t get to hear anything) just underscores that as much of a heavy romantic story this is, in the end, Imtiaz Ali’s Tamasha is all about not letting go of the child in you.