I spent the first part of my day at a literature event. I did not get as much out of it as I did from the two-and-a-half-hour-long movie I watched the same evening. Tamasha isn’t a film, though. It’s a life story. As I watched it, I realized it was my life story. I snapped out of suffocating neckties and bid goodbye to an industry where I didn’t belong four years ago, to tell stories (except not in a theatrical fashion, but with words and frames and some perspective for garnishing).
First, I’m very happy someone made a movie on (quitting) the rat race. It was spelled out clearly in Ved’s (Ranbir) last story to his dad; subtlety doesn’t really work with Indian audiences, or so the directors here think. Hence, Taare Zameen Par and 3 Idiots involved speeches that summarized their ‘moral of the story’. But Tamasha does better. And it lends a hand to anyone (and I know there are many) who wants to stop chasing an illusion of a victory in a fixed race but can’t gather the courage to. I know it would’ve certainly helped the likes of me four years ago when I sat in an IT office pretending to care about hollow-sounding words like downtime, skill set, app pool, and major incident, while my hands itched to write my heart out.
Of course there were some flaws with the movie. Time hops are a major upgrade over a boringly linear narrative, but overdo them and the audience is left with a scattered memory of the story. I like to retain the flavour of a film for a few hours (days?) after I’ve seen it, roll it around in my mind and see if it means any different. But as much as I tried to, Tamasha came back to me in bits and pieces when I strolled the cold away on a Delhi evening. There were a few lasting scenes – when Ved and Tara (Deepika) meet – as Don and Mona- and when it ends with the Don’s return; there was Ved’s last story; there was the auto-rickshaw guy and the old storyteller, there were Ved’s mirror soliloquies… I had trouble molding all of these pieces into a solid takeaway, a memory to preserve.
Ranbir is the center of the film, and rightly so. A friend remarked that the love story wasn’t given its due screen time, but I disagree. This film wasn’t a love story, and that is where Imtiaz Ali surprises and wins hearts (and perhaps awards). Also, Deepika struggled to act, in my opinion. Especially when Ranbir is in his element in France, Deepika clearly struggles to keep up with the maverick quotient he possesses. But just when you think Ranbir is doing fairly well, he takes it to a whole new level as the corporate Yes Man who’s been trained to follow a mindless drill. He eventually questions his life story and dares to want one different from that of others around. (The film’s poster again spells it out for those with blinders on : ‘Why always the same story?’) This is a level a past me (and a lot of you) might relate to. But as another friend shrewdly pointed out in an FB status, those who have never questioned or attempted to quit the race will not identify with this movie (and perhaps even think the protagonist needs a shrink). Despair can’t be summarized to those who have never felt it.
Our life lesson textbooks in school were full of clichés. The most clichéd of those clichés was: ‘Honesty is the best policy’. I cringe as I type that, even after all these years. While our teachers tried to teach us to be honest with everyone – from our friends to parents to the annoying neighbour aunty, they forgot to teach us to be honest with ourselves. This film does exactly that. And it’s as important a life lesson as any.
Tamasha isn’t a movie. It’s the life story of a lot of people suffocating in air-conditioned cubicles who have been told to be content with their plastic luxuries since their forefathers weren’t so blessed. It’s perhaps your life story, too. Only, as the protagonist so aptly puts it, the ending depends on you.