Imtiaz Ali is one of those filmmakers I have been following of my own accord from the time I saw his first film. A friend and me walked to the CD shop, and got two films (Socha Na Tha and Alexander), and two blue films (You Seriously Don’t Think I’ll Remember The Name, Part 3).
I remember being impressed by the film, looking up the director, and making it a point to watch his next film.
Sadly however, Imtiaz Ali’s films have become tropes in themselves. It’s the same palette with different colours – a bubbly heroine, a brooding hero, a long, life-altering journey that culminates in love. So I didn’t expect too much.
Tamasha’s beginning had me hooked, though. Using minimal frames, Ali manages to convey the theme of childhood and the association with stories, something Vishal Bharadwaj accomplished to some extent in Ek Thi Daayan. The effect that a story has on a child, and the ensuing ‘trip’, is hard to describe in words, even more so on celluloid. I know this because I grew up in an environment where films, girls, songs, stories were discouraged.
Which meant I had only two windows to the world – books, and friends whose parents were cool enough to let them watch movies. Books had to be read on the sly – an indulgence that stayed with me for the entire duration. I would hide the book under my desk, or sneak in a few pages in the bathroom when no one was watching. The stories, their settings, and the characters often walked with me for the rest of the day. I had lunch thinking of Hogwarts and the Great Dining Hall. And I spent quality time in the bathroom thinking of Sidney Sheldon’s central characters.
Imtiaz Ali conveys this beautifully. Using montages, psychedelic visuals, and an amazing child actor who looks like Ranbir Kapoor’s illegal love child – the resemblance is so striking!
It is when Ali moves the story forward, that I lost the connection. (There’s also the fact that a lovely lady by my side was a distraction, but let’s ignore that for now).
You know, when you’re playing cricket with your friends, and the ball goes up in the air right above that friend of yours who’s a lousy fielder? And you watch him get under the ball, spreading his hands out like a frog…but you know he’s going to drop it?
I felt that way with Tamasha. I was hoping and praying it wouldn’t go down that slope, but this is just another film where rich Bombay filmmakers dish out their fuck-all knowledge of the world through stereotypical characters in indulgent projects.
Tamasha, you see, is another of Bollywood’s ‘Find your own inner calling in life’ projects.
In the last decade, there have been tons of films on the same lines – the hero is ‘lost’ in his own world, meaning he has a job. Suddenly, a beautiful woman walks into his life, and he realizes his actual passion in life is ‘something else’.
This ‘something else’ is a ‘creative’ job like architecture, designing, photography, or something cute, like starting a school for poor children in a village. It drives me nuts.
It happened with Wake up Sid, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani and countless other films. Well, first of all, if you leave a job you’ve worked on for years, (and in case of Indian middle class families – decades), for a girl, you’re a fucking idiot.
Secondly, to keep dishing out the same bullshit of leaving your job to pursue your passion is almost offensive (not in an Aamir Khan way, but in a more subtle, Irrfan Khan way). There are millions of people who work in day jobs, provide for their families, and lead perfectly happy lives. To use it as a setting for your story is a combination of a lack of imagination, and extremely lazy writing. If I were a corporate employee, I’d be offended. But I’m not, so let’s move on. 😀
There are things that Imtiaz Ali gets spot on, though.
The film looks like a peach. Every frame looks like a dessert from a Michelin 3 star French restaurant. Cinematographer Ravi Varman and Art Director Manini Mishra combine to create superbly striking visuals, forcing you to pay more attention that you would have otherwise.
While Rahman’s music has been called mediocre, I think that’s because of the lack of any ‘epic Rahman songs’. However, the background score is effectively used by Imtiaz Ali. And finally, it is his cast that carry the film on their shoulders. Ranbir Kapoor is expected to do well in his movies, but it is really Deepika Padukone who stands out.
But even a dessert from a Michelin 3 star French restaurant can seem too much if you’ve had enough. I was the diabetic among the foodies that couldn’t digest Tamasha. If I had to list out my favourite Imtiaz Ali films by order of preference, they’d be:
Socha Na Tha
Jab We Met
Love Aaj Kal
Sadly, that’s Imtiaz Ali’s filmography as well.