Readers Write In #191: ‘Tamasha’ – It’s always the same story, yet it is a story like no other

Posted on May 25, 2020

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(by Sai Krishna Ramavajula)

I was following the teaser, trailer, andthe songs of ‘Tamasha’ before the release of the movie. It is an Imtiaz Ali movie, it has Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone. There is A.R. Rahman’s music, Irshad Kamil’s lyrics, and Mohit Chauhan’s vocals. There is Ravi Varman’s beautiful cinematography as seen before in Barfi and RamLeela. I was sold even before the movie even started and I booked my tickets for the first day first show to watch yet another Imtiaz Ali love story on the big screen. These thoughts were all somewhere in my mind as I start watching the film. At the nine-minute mark, the audience much like Ved’s childhood character began to question Imtiaz Ali (who is also the writer of this movie) – Kuch Ghadbhad hain(There is something wrong). Isn’t this the same story that you are telling me again? A boy meets a girl and they fall in love kind of love story that we have seen so many times.  Imtiaz Ali through the storyteller (Piyush Mishra) tells the audience–‘So What’s the problem? A Story is a story. And it is the same everywhere. In Ayodhya or Greece. Laila-Majnu. Romeo-Juliet. Alexander’s victory. The battle of Lanka. Your Story too, like others is the same. It is always the same everywhere. Ignore the why, the where, and the what. Just savor the story. Get comfortable in your seats. Let us get started’. Then Rahman’sChali Kahanikicks in. The first ten minutes of Tamasha is a microcosm of the entire movie. We have a robot (Ved) who is kicked by a Joker (Tara) and when he seems to go off balance and fall down, she catches him. Then the title card – ‘Tamasha’ appears. The director has told me two things already– It is going to be the same story that is everywhere and what the story itself is. I stuffed a handful amount of popcorn into my mouth and got ready for the show.

Tamasha is one of the most interesting Hindi films in my opinion. It received a bi-polar reaction from the audience worldwide. They either hated it or loved it. I never saw anyone who told things like – It is one time watch worthy (a typical Indian style review for most of the films). So this movie did something different than the others and this fascinated me. It is not hard to guess – where I lie among these two groups. I loved it in the first watch and as I watched it repeatedly, I find it to be a very fascinating way of telling the same story. It is like the excitement of hearing stories from your grandmother that you already know. It is not the story that fascinates you but it is the way that it is being narrated that keeps you engaged.

The story is aboutVed (Ranbir Kapoor) and Tara(Deepika Padukone), who meet as strangers in Corsica and decide not to reveal any information about themselves to each other. They have fun in each other’s company. And as promised they move on and decide to never meet each other. A few years later,Tarais still thinking about Ved and tries to get back into his life. She finds him but she quickly discovers that it is not the same Ved she fell in love with. Now what happens next? It is like Imtiaz Ali again answering me through Ved with the following lines – ‘Hona Kay Hai?Wahi Kahani Phir Ek Baar?Majnu ne liya kapde phaad, maar tamasha beech bajaar’ (What is there to happen? The usual. The same old story. Majnu rips-off his clothes Makes a scene of himself). These lines summarize the second half of the movie.

The conflict of the story is that Ved is not being himself, his true self, that only Tara has seen in him. In Corsica, amidst the mountains there is a beautiful sunset shot of Ved sitting on top of a boulder, and Tara sees him from far, maybe thinking how beautiful he is as a person. He is lost in his deep thoughts and he cannot see what a beautiful setting he is in or he is as a person. This can be seen only from Tara’s perspective. He is the one who talks with mountains. He tells strangers engaging stories. He drinks water from rivers like a beast. She islike astar (Tara meaning star), who can shine a light on things and see the beauty in something as old as even the ‘RigVed’.

It is this love that makes her feel his presence for four years even when he is not physically with her. But after parting their ways mutually Heer is still hung up on him and is sad. I quickly question Imtiaz Ali – ‘Who is Heer and why is a song about her relevant to Tara’s story in Kolkata?’ Imtiaz says‘Sanjukta or Samyuktha? Yamuna or Jamuna? Joseph or Yusuf? Jesus or Isa? Moses or Musa? Brahma, Abraham, or Ibrahim? The Hindu River or Indus? Hind or India? The story flows on – Simply Chali Kahani’.Yes, I get it. It is always the same story everywhere.

In Corsica, whenever they spoke there was a piece of lively and energetic music flowing in the background. Even before the lead burst out to break a leg in Matarghasti, theParade De La Bastille soundtrack wasgoing on behind their conversations. But, when she meets him for a date in Delhi all the excitement and sounds die down as soon as she comes down from her house to meet him.Even at the restaurant all we can hear is the stock Japanese sounds and how countries are the latest companies and companies are the latest countries.Just like Tara we ask ‘Is everything okay?’ He was a man talking to a mountain but now when introducing his girlfriend to his boss, he sounds like a mountain (read dull and flattery). When he meets Tara again in Delhi and introduces himself he hands his business card over to her spontaneously. He thinks a business card is a proof for his name.The same guy after helping out a stranger in Corsica quickly realizes that this is too familiar – to introduce oneself, hit on the girl, identify mutual friends and quickly say ‘what a small world?’. He pauses, stops himself, and introduces him as ‘Don’.When they meet in Corsica, everything was bright and colorful, but here in Delhi it is all dark, dull, and gloomy. Tara came to Corsica because she fell in love with ‘Asterix in Corsica’ but is disappointed with the place after the theft of her belongings. Similarly, she comes to Delhi searching for ‘the guy’she met but finds that ‘the guy’ is a whole ‘another guy’– leaving Heer disappointed. Heer toh sad wohna hi thaa(Heer is bound to be sad).

The mental image of Ved in Tara’s head is what infuriates Ved. He knows he is someone else and understands that Tara is right about him. But he is not able to accept that.It hurts us the most when we know that the other person is right and we are not able to accept that. When the auto drivertalks about circumstances coming in the way of his dreams, memories hit Ved like the crossing traffic.Ved has been told all his life that he is a mediocre, average and his good behavior is the only thing that has got him this far. In the song ‘Wat Wat’the auto driver and Ved sing about how their dreams just like a beautiful girl gave them both happiness initially but messed up their lives soon and quickly became an embarrassment in front of everyone. He is angry with himself and more with Tara for telling him that he is not who he thinks he is. He says ‘Yeh Kya Ban jaata hoon main Tumhare Saamne’ (What do I  become in front of you?)

His beliefs and his identity are challenged by Tara and this throws him off the balance. This is what drives him to do these crazy things. He slowly loosens up. The recurrent visuals of Ved’s morning routine show him changing. He slowly loses the tie, the sweater, the formal shirts and finally dresses more like the Ved we saw in Corsica. He thinks his job was the issue (Paisa, money) and quits his job. But still, nothing changes. He is not sure of what he wants? He finally does what he has been doing all his life – seeking stories for an answer. He goes to the storyteller asking him about the story of his future. The storyteller accuses Ved as a thief trying to steal the answers from him. ‘Heer is inside you, but you are searching for her in the wilderness’.

This movie’s plot can be oversimplified to ‘A Person quits his job and discovers his passion through his lover’. But that is just one of the aspects of ‘Tamasha’. As the name suggests, it is both a story filled with grandeur and can also be interpreted as confusion. Tamasha might not be the perfect film with no holes in the plotline or flaws in the development of characters. Yet this movie works for me because it makes me savor the story than complaint about anything else. In a way Imtiaz Ali told us this in the beginning but not many seemed to have paid attention to this fact.

This write-up is my humble attempt in trying to understand what makes ‘Tamasha’ such a special movie for me. Many of my interpretations may not be how Imtiaz Ali conceived it but that’s the beauty of art – it touches each one differently.Imtiaz Ali tells us in the beginning that it is always the same story yet he gives us a story like no other. A.R. Rahman’s music and Irshad Kamil’s lyrics are like an extra layer of cream on an already lip-smackingdessert. Packaged together with the stunning visuals from Ravi Varman and stunning performances from Ranbir and Deepika, they present us with the spectacle that is ‘Tamasha’.