By: Samar Khan
For those in shock that The Film Lawyers are covering a Bollywood film, fret not. We cover ALL cinema globally and, as it just so happens, we tend to cover everything from the best to the most mediocre to everything in between.
Which brings us to Imtiaz Ali’s Tamasha, which falls squarely in the middle of good and bad or, in other words, is perfectly passable. The film’s title translates to “Spectacle” in English, which gives you an idea of what to expect: a film that will appear visually gorgeous and will attempt to wow the viewer with its modernistic approach to film and tricky storyline. It’s not a great start for the film, with the opening 7-8 minutes failing to set the groundwork for the rest of the film; in fact, it does not become clear until near the interval mark (this is Bollywood, remember?) what the introduction was even referring to with its jumbled story-within-a-story-within-a-story flashback sequence. It’s a testament to the chemistry of the two leads, Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone, that the film manages to become more palatable to the viewer upon their introductions after the aforementioned jumbled start.
Speaking of the duo, Kapoor and Padukone are in fine form as a pair of strangers who meet in Corsica and promise to not reveal their real identities to one another, living vicariously through invented personalities (Shahrukh Khan fans will appreciate the nods here) and spending a carefree week together. Before moving forward, a note needs to be made about the film’s subtlety (or lack thereof); the amount of times the dialogue hammered home that they were in Corsica or had been to Corsica was comical. If I were a man that indulged in drinking and there was a game of shots for the amount of times Corsica was mentioned, I would presently be looking down upon you from Heaven after having passed from alcohol poisoning mere minutes into the movie.
Anyway, back to the film. To state it was predictable is easy; one could see how living through fake personalities would eventually lead into love for one (or both) party and the ensuing complications that arise from it. This is a Bollywood film, so a complicated love story is a must. However, the effect of the film’s predictable nature is mitigated by the performance of the two leads, who seemed to essentially be playing themselves but having a lot of fun in doing so. Their prior relationship clearly shines through, as their chemistry can be argued as being second only to the incomparable pairing of Shahrukh Khan and Kajol. Padukone’s Tara becomes a corporate lackey seeking more excitement from life after the week in Corsica (!) while Kapoor’s Ved goes from a carefree player to a corporate drone back to the former after a second half focused on him finding himself. While Imtiaz Ali’s approach to exploring how people play separate roles in separate stages of their life is an intriguing and tantalizing concept, the execution itself doesn’t entirely work. He somehow manages to make Kapoor’s Ved excruciatingly boring in between the scenes of discovering himself and that serves to hamper the pacing of the film; if the film cut out the menial aspects of day-to-day life and focused just on the pair themselves, it would tighten the narrative and help the film flow more smoothly.
Ali’s direction was mostly on point for this film. After having directed the acclaimed Jab We Met all those years ago, many have been expecting every release of his to be equally as sublime. Just as films such as Rockstar and Love Aaj Kal fell short of expectations, so does Tamasha. Despite the complaints about the film’s dialogue at times, his decision to separate the Corsica scenes from the Delhi-based scenes by way of visual distinction is worthy of commendation. He opts for a fun, lush and dreamy style for the scenes set in Corsica and a drab, dreary style for the latter; this makes perfect sense within the context of the film’s story, with the Delhi-based scenes containing the menial and dreadfully boring daily routines of the two leads.
Ali’s decision to focus the second half almost exclusively on Kapoor’s character costs the film the most, as his journey to self-fulfillment robs the audience of what was a typically excellent performance from Padukone. She was equally as delightful within the majority of the first half as Kapoor. For a film that was centered around Padukone’s character awakening the desire to return to a carefree style for Kapoor’s Ved, it was odd to see the former given such a minimal amount of screen time. That has been a recurring theme of Ali’s films, with Jab We Met’s biggest flaw being its focus on Shahid Kapoor in the second half despite the film being carried by his co-star, Kareena Kapoor, throughout the entirety of the first half. Here’s to hoping he finds a way to dole out equivalent screen time to both (or more!) of the main characters of his stories in the future.
Now, a Bollywood film review is never complete without a healthy discussion about its soundtrack. For what was a perfectly average film, the soundtrack complements it perfectly. It had no elite-level songs, but what it did have were fun songs that kept the viewer interested, despite their unmemorable nature. A.R. Rahman was in charge of the soundtrack and based on his prior track record, more was expected from the legendary veteran. Alas, disappointment abounds. The soundtrack is elevated slightly by what was an excellent return performance from Alka Yagnik, who performed a duet with the ever-present Arijit Singh. While the names behind the song are legendary (Singh has catapulted to superstardom in less than 3 years, a remarkable feat), they fail to match the levels of prior songs crooned individually by the pair or with separate partners. The problem of the film having such a weak soundtrack is exacerbated Ali’s decision to present a new song after what feels to be every few minutes, which serves to do nothing but emphasize for the viewer just how average the soundtrack is.
For fans of Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani seeking a similarly predictable but uber-fun time, Tamasha disappoints. It lacks the excellent soundtrack of the former, has a much looser narrative hoping to explore multiple perspectives on life and is hampered by an atrocious introduction and middling second act. However, due to the performances of the leads and a still solid soundtrack (Yagnik and Singh’s duet, Tum Saath Ho, is a marvel), it is still recommended to those that are familiar with the actors. It’s no secret that Bollywood has been losing its lustre the last few years, with the best films being those that deviate from the norm (Badlapur, Talvar, Drishyam to name a few). Here’s to hoping that the future has better things in store for those that long for high quality and consistently excellent Bollywood cinema.
After careful consideration, we, The Film Lawyers, are awarding the film with a C+.
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