“You often feel tired, not because you’ve done too much, but because you’ve done too little of what sparks a light in you.” – Alexander den Heijer
Tamasha – true to its name – is a colourfully chaotic and satirical tribute to the ‘Tamasha’ that is life itself. It is raw, brash, explores each of its characters at their most vulnerable moments, and doesn’t shy away from openly calling out and mocking the very life you and I are living – consistently throughout the narrative.
It is not the typical Imtiaz Ali love story we all expected it to be – it is in fact so much more. It probably one of the most misunderstood movies of our times. It doesn’t fulfil any of the demands of an average cinema-goer. It instead offers a number of uncomfortable feelings and heart-breaking moments.
Its complex and non-linear screenplay are hard to keep up with. The abrupt and sudden shifts in the narrative, unconventional theatrical style of storytelling might seem distracting or even disturbing to a first-time viewer.
SO it is not funny. Neither does it dish out the perfect romance, or be all cheery and endearing. Because it’s not meant to be any of those things. It is reflective, hard-hitting, and as real as it can get. This realness depicted with such poetic genius in the form of its dialogues, breath-taking shots, beautiful music by Rahman – all of which makes up for the theatrical magic that Tamasha creates.
The whole movie is broken down into parts – or acts - just like an actual play.
The story begins in charming and quaint little town of Shimla, where we see a carefree 9 year-old Ved running around the town, his head full of stories. (casting so on point – the kid bears an uncanny resemblance to Kapoor himself). For him, they weren’t just stories – they meant everything. He lived inside them. Such was the influence of stories in his childhood that he learned to view life through the kaleidoscope of stories - he began to see characters of his stories come alive in the people in front of him. Helen of troy, Romeo and Juliet, Aladdin - one glorious montage summing up his entire childhood – immersed in these fictional tales.
This whole sequence sets the groundwork for Ved’s phenomenal character development.
Then, cut to the breath-taking French countryside – Corsica. Amidst the orange hues of the sky, turquoise waters and scenic shots as if taken straight out of a painting - we see the lead pair’s story take off, in the most off-beat way possible. Amidst all the cringe role-playing, they’d build an alternate universe for themselves - where they felt they could be literally anybody they wanted to be. They were fearless. It felt like they had escaped the lifeless humdrum and monotony of daily life, always pretending to be someone they are not.
All of this actually made for a beautiful paradox: about the so-called “roles” they are supposed to play in society.
The movie is shouting out a clear question – “Why not be our spontaneous selves back home? Why only in Corsica?”
Eventually, Tara leaves, both of them move on, and reunite after 4 years - but the aura is totally different now. Introductions instantly start with their real names – that carefreeness and spontaneity is lost. Suddenly they're too formal and awkward, while being their "true" selves and bonding in the conventional way.
What was so different about Corsica?!
Then comes the proposal – this scene onwards is where the real magic of the movie starts, some of my favourite moments from the film take place : the desk – scene before the song “Agar tum saath ho”, the conversation with the rickshaw driver – “Andar se kuch aur hi hai hum, aur bahar se majhboor”, Ved’s storytelling to an enthralled audience in the street, the scene which mocks the fact how everyone asks “How are you doing? without actually ever meaning it, and his final monologue, the story he tells his dad, finally discovering his true self. During this monologue the mirror at his back actually symbolises how he’s left that old self behind him – the one that talks to mirrors ridiculing himself.
The first time around when I watched the movie, after the proposal part I used to think Tara is crazy, still living in her delusional world refusing to accept Ved’s reality. When in fact – it is Ved who has been suppressing his true self all his life. He has stifled all emotions with such severe rigidity that his true passion is now unrecognisable even to himself – lost somewhere in the deep dark depths of his heart. Tara gives him a grab-by-the-shoulder-and -look-in-the-eyes-moment – to wake him up back to his actual reality. She helps him realise – in the entire process of living the so-called ‘perfect’ life and climbing the mirage of the apparent “social ladder” - he actually ended up losing himself. She sees his old fiancé in him, saying “I already have this”. A product of the system, with little or no say or control over his own life. She was in love with the independent and free-spirited man back in Corsica, living life at his own terms.
Upon this stir his pent-up frustration starts resurfacing in all possible forms - he starts questioning himself, and at the same time tries to defend his current lifestyle. He is surprised at his outburst himself. Throughout the movie, Ved’s emotional turmoil is simply escalated to achieve theatrical effect.
Ranbir Kapoor is absolutely stellar in his portrayal of Ved, he manages to depict a character with such intricate emotional layers with sheer ease. His performance in Tamasha is undoubtedly one of his most powerful ones.
Deepika Padukone as Tara or Ved's "guiding star" is the catalyst of the film, and supports the storyline of Ved’s character development flawlessly.
The scene when Tara desperately tries to win him back, crying, refuses to give up on him without flinching even once at his outbursts – is probably the most intense and moving part of the movie. We see the iconic scene roll out in front of us as A.R Rahman’s popular track starts playing, Alka Yagnik spelling out the scene through the lyrics of our favourite track.
Ved's internal angst is retold mockingly and very masterfully in the storytelling sesh in front of his fam – he is running a race, no questions asked, without even knowing what race it is, just because everyone else is. He is “proud” about being mediocre – as if that was his ultimate end goal in life. Another one of my favourite metaphors is the one where he mentions – how our childhood, which teaches us to dream without limits – is the greatest traitor. How each of us inevitably ends up killing that childlike innocence off as we grow up – restricting ourselves and forgetting what it even means to dream.
How would your childhood-self react to the present you? Would he / she be disappointed?
One thing to note here is – it is not Ved's 9 -to-5-Product-Managerial job being mocked – but the very fact that even today, scores of people, go on and actually end up living entire lives which hold no meaning to them simply because of the unsaid rules of what we “oughtta do”. There are many Veds around us, still in search of their passion, trying to find meaning in their lives. The passion talked about here is the art of storytelling, and such movies always tend to glorify only an artist’s job. But this also applies to someone aspiring to become a CEO of their own start-up but locking away their dreams.
Despite its unconventional style and exaggerated sequences, Tamasha doesn’t fail to strike a chord with a lot of us.
It is an introspective, soul-stirring and poignant tale about the journey of a storyteller discovering his true self. If movies which require you to think, are not mainstream, and give a message interest you, then this might be your pick.
To sign off, just like what the storyteller tells him: may you have the courage to be honest with yourself, pick your own race, write your own story – and make sure that the ending is right.