Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Crazy Joy of Tamasha

Imtiaz Ali has created a mature love story in ’Tamasha’. It is one of those complex movies which demand a little more indulgence and attention than usual, not for everyone to enjoy. Trailers and pre-release hype had rightly prepared the audience for a certain interpretation of the storyline. Expectations were that this film will explore the toll that yearning for honesty takes on a relationship. There were some interesting choices of clues in Tamasha apart from obvious product placements. The book that everyone was reading was ‘Catch 22’ and the conference in Tokyo was on bipolar behaviour. Tamasha has two beautiful movies in it and both are very powerful.  One deals with ‘Catch 22’ of role-playing and other is more to do with personality disorders brought about by not being able to live by one’s choices. Merging of the two strands, howsoever expertly, has left a dissonance in the experience. 

        Milan Kundera wrote a beautiful story on role-playing by lovers  titled "The Hitchhiking Game". In the story a young couple on a trip decided to play strangers. They delved into excitement and madness that such games are prone to induce. The experience excited them initially and, even, brought out hidden aspects of their personalities and relationship. But things went bad and the story ended with protagonist calling for pathos to rekindle emotions and failing. The Role-playing resulted in deforming the relationship and killing romance for all practical purposes. Debauched abandon of such temporary leave from constraints of morality, habits, and obligations may leave permanent scars. That was Kundera writing in restrictive communist milieu. This is Imtiaz Ali deploying the state of breaking free to a different and somehow, opposite impact while keeping the agony angst, ecstasy and madness of the enterprise intact. 
To begin with, there wasn’t any relationship to deform and role play created one and here anonymity of role-play was used to pry open maladies and heal them. Actors (a superb Ranbir Kappor and sublime Dipika Padukone) rose up to the challenges and infused the characters and situation with genuine joy and heart rending agony. Their on-screen  chemistry gave the story that critical emotional heft. Imtiaz created beautiful moments used Corsica and Hauz Khas Delhi not only as backdrops but also as characters (Ved/Don used to talk to mountains). Results are very satisfying. 

        The Director has gone arty and sophisticated about laying foundations of the major concerns of his film. His tools were the story teller (very effective Piyush Mishra) stage play, monologue by Ved/Don. One has to be attentive and patient to follow the direction of the story. ‘Sitare Jameen Par’ or ‘Three Idiot’ or Munna Bhai wre more direct about their core messages. Imtiaz takes his time and allows the audience to participate in the process of deciphering characters and decoding core message – pay off is better, if a bit strenuous sometimes. 

        Imtiaz Ali is good at many aspects of direction. His song picturisation is great, he exploits locales beautifully, he captures joys and pain of romance very deeply. At the same time he is very sympathetic in his portrayal of unravelling of person. His portrayal of ruin conveys its grandeur. ‘Rockstar’ saw impact of agony and total unravelling by creative torrent. However, in the entire process there was no doubt about where the Director’s sympathies lay. He applauded the ruining by the acid of honesty/creativity and intensity of feelings. Here too he was appreciative of the madness of it all. 
I was rooting for ‘Catch 22’ of pure of nameless, free lunatic anonymity of role playing. You like someone for a role which may come back to haunt you when expectations change. But to my mild disappointment he deployed this crazy relationship to heal a personality flaw or helping a sick person, to get his freedom. Power female of the crazy relationship was not somewhat reduced to a tool of healing. She was an equal partner in the crazy adventure in Corsica, while in Delhi, it was all about Ved. Story tried to convey repression and bipolarity of Ved, Ranbir Kapoor showed remarkable resourcefulness in tapping crazy nervous thrill of his character’s lunacy. Dipika showed equal aplomb in sliding into supportive role. She was great in conveying her bewildered disappointment on meeting robotic ‘normal’ Ved. All said and done, Imtiaz Ali brings certain smartness in the interactions of his characters. Whether it is coquettish banter or it is catharsis of brutal longing, it is never less than posh without being showy. 

        Another issue with the core message is its insistence on superlative. It exhorts against mechanical pursuit of mediocrity and shackles that habits and expectations put on us. It asks us to create our own story. But what happens when you are a mediocre trapped under mediocre expectations. Not everyone has the exit route of a ‘Storyteller’. Don’t they deserve a place under the Sun. 

        But that is a minor quibble. Tamasha is a grand movie, one of the best.

- Dhiraj Singh

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