Being familiar with Imtiaz Ali’s previous works, it’s hard not to notice the similarities in themes and the underlying thought process. In a way, Tamasha could be another version of Love Aaj Kal. The ‘Kal’ part belongs to the Corsica chapter which forms the first quarter of the film and the ‘Aaj’ part forms the second quarter in Delhi.
The second half of the film completely deviates from any reflection on modern relationships and instead focuses on one’s individuality – a thread that was opened at the very start of the film and left untied until then.
Tamasha opens much like the old-wordly ‘tamashas’, play versions of dastans. It introduces the theme of the movie in a humorous and well-rounded way (Kal) as a jugalbandi between a robot and a joker. And then it shifts to a flashback montage (Aaj) of Ranbir’s (character’s) childhood, where he is seen spellbound by a storyteller’s tales.
This brilliant montage shows the makings of a storyteller in this kid. The rest of the movie plays out in chapters. Every chapter starts with a poster and a title.
The Corsica chapter
Here’s where things are fun. Imtiaz Ali introduces the ultimate dream scenario every youngster wishes would come true – two strangers meet in a foreign land and decide not to tell each other any detail about themselves, including their names, and instead just enjoy each other’s company. So Ranbir gets uber creative, introduces himself as Don and starts enacting multiple filmy scenes in succession without any necessary connection. Deepika is impressed with his spontaneity and tries to catch up so as to continue the crazy banter (which will remind you of similar ones in Rockstar). Ranbir, of course, shines in his various imitations. Deepika, as the role required, does not try to imitate too much but she gets a stellar scene playing a Marathi girl with a rate card!
Throughout this chapter, the chemistry between the lead pair is impeccable. They suck you into their comfortable relationship of closeness within limits, eventually making you wish they do end up together.
The Delhi chapter
Here’s where things get tricky. Once back from splitting up with a never-really-together partner in Corsica, even as a supposedly sad ballad going “Heer toh very sad hai ji” plays in the background, Deepika’s character doesn’t shed a single tear. Instead she resolutely breaks up with her current boyfriend in Kolkata, her career zooms and the plot progresses four whole years ahead when she is sent to Delhi on an assignment.
To give credit where it’s due, Deepika seems completely comfortable playing all the variations in her character’s life, not just within this chapter but throughout. There is not a single unconvincing moment with her portrayal of Tara. When she eventually bumps into Ranbir Kapoor again, her nonchalant “OK” when he says he doesn’t have a girlfriend is to die for!
The real surprise is Ranbir Kapoor in this chapter. He’s (seemingly) a catch – he works in a big firm, earns well, is a gentleman.Everything’s going for him and their prospective relationship… except the spontaneity. Ved lives a routine life revolved around his job. A romantic evening with him turns out to be a movie date in PVR. He takes Tara out to a Japanese restaurant and makes the most typical small talk – not before presenting her flowers and complementing her dress. When he leaves from Tara’s place, he waves at her with a smile and gets into his car – not before checking his watch to see how late it is. He even kisses like it’s a chore – not before consciously removing his watch and putting his phone on silent. Talk about romance!
And this is exactly where Imtiaz Ali scores. He shows modern relationships in such lights as you never really saw them before – in this case, routine. Be prepared to confront a slice of reality shown like the reflection in a funhouse mirror, with the ungainly parts exaggerated.
The second half
I don’t want to spoil the second half for you. Like I said, it has little to do with the lead pair and more to do with one’s individuality. Although Deepika Padukone’s role gets pushed to the back, Ranbir Kapoor is brought back into the limelight, the script harking back to his childhood and then proceeding into the present. His performance needs to be seen to be believed!
This is what happens when a proficient director works with a mesmerizing actor. It is a mark of how well Ranbir Kapoor can act that he completely convinces you (just before the interval) that he really is that mechanical guy living a routine life, and not the spontaneous buffoon from the previous chapter. And that’s just the beginning!
However, there are a lot of off-putting points about the second half. And that’s because the original theme of the movie doesn’t reach out until the last quarter of the film, making the movie seem inconsistent. It’s also because the Corsica chapter was so impressive that when the movie took a sudden U-turn after that, it seemed as though that chapter had led nowhere. This conflict between screen time provided to Tara and Ved’s relationship versus the individuality angle is the movie’s undoing.
There is a lot to be cheerful for about Tamasha. Poetic interludes are the highlight of the second half, never once seeming out of place and always leaving you wanting more. A. R. Rahman’s background score is expectedly brilliant, the songs even more so with extremely apt lyrics. The writing is old-worldly (Kal) and modern (Aaj) in respective scenarios, and obviously contains some trademark Imtiaz Ali monologues. If not anything else, one can watch Tamasha for the lead pair’s dazzling performance.
I think the best actor was Piyush Mishra as the forgetful storyteller. He mixes and mingles tales from entirely different continents, insisting that the details are not what’s important, it’s the story. In a way, this reflects on the theme of Tamasha too: it doesn’t matter if it’s Ved or Don, or you; what matters is your story.