Directed by Imtiaz Ali, Tamasha is the story of a guy who meets a girl on vacation, and both fall for each other. However, they made a promise to never reveal their identities as they might never see each other again. They meet again after a few years, but the guy is nothing like he was before.
There’s something unique about Tamasha for me. As someone who went through a similar experience as the lead character Ved, I expected myself to fall in love with this film. Like many people, I know personally, have. But I haven’t. And it’s probably because I know what the film wants to talk about all too well. I appreciate Tamasha for its elements of fantasy and how it romanticizes theatre. But it uses all that to talk about something that’s very nuanced and out of its scope. That being said, I completely understand and see why people love Tamasha as much as they do.
Ages better with time
The movie starts off very unconventionally. Not with its premise but how it executes it. It starts off with a celebratory dance, right out of any holiday romance story. Ranbir and Deepika give unexpected, over-the-top, borderline cringy performances. Tamasha had me all set to hate the film. But gradually, the façade goes away, and it begins to make sense. Imtiaz Ali successfully proved me wrong. So much so that I did not just accept his vision, but I appreciated it. Tamasha becomes very interesting when it subverts expectations and discards conventions around romance. Do we always fall in love with the idea of someone? Do people ever really change? And if they do, is it because they wanted to? Tamasha is great at raising such questions.
It’s not that simple
Unfortunately, it’s not great at answering them. The whole ‘live your life’ is an age-old trope that has been recycled far too often in the 2010s. Particularly in Imtiaz’s filmography. This time it’s about a little more than just a girl. It’s about following your passion. Tamasha oversimplifies and generalizes a problem that plagues nearly the entire Indian Economy. It would be one thing if the story was just about Ved and how this was specific to him. It instead makes it about the ‘mediocre common man’ who is lost in the crowd.
That not just comes off as offensive but something someone unaware about the problem would say. By generalizing such a complex issue like identity, it assumes everyone who is stuck in the ‘middle-class corporate race’ is doing so because they forgot or gave up on their passions and ambitions. Which is far away from the truth. Tamasha is best enjoyed as Ved’s story and something that would happen to someone like him in his set of circumstances.
Besides that, Tamasha gets nearly everything else right. The music is a highlight, comprising multiple genres, all of which suit their respective tones. Ranbir and Deepika both give very convincing performances, even in their over-the-top moments. Moments that just make more sense by the time credits begin to roll. Deepika’s character doesn’t feel as fleshed out and only seems to exist to service Ranbir’s character/ the plot but is still believable. Contrary to most complaints, I was not bothered by the non-linear structure and the frequent cutaways to moments of fantasy/theatrics. Imtiaz Ali probably wanted to depict moments of pure emotion that don’t necessarily translate to merely dialogues. I respect that.
Tamasha tries to generalize an idea that just applies to its central character to every ‘common man’ watching it. However, that naive message is wrapped within great performances, refreshing music, and Imtiaz Ali’s artistic direction, all making it worth admiring.