Wahi kahani fir ek baar. Majnu ne liye kapde faad. Maar tamasha beech bazaar.
Ved’s monologue right at his most vulnerable and fearless best is how I feel about Imtiaz Ali’s filmography. He has taken us on different paths with different men but somehow there lies a sense of connection in his works. He has thrived on relatability and if there is a genre on individuality, he is its Hitchcock. As for what these heroes do and invoke in us is a journey so intimate, their methods are familiar.
So, when I watched Tamasha for the first time, I could spot why Ali’s previous works (primarily Jab We Met and Rockstar) felt relatable. As the latest upped its symbolism game, it became evident there was once since forever. And as Tamasha brought to us Ved, he felt reminiscent of a touch of Aditya Kashyap and probably a slice of Jordan.
The existential crisis Ali’s protagonists have been at the helm of and explored are alike in tone but very different in structure. We met the characters in very different parts of their journey.
Aditya Kashyap was in a train without knowing where it was headed, much like the person himself. He sat there in his messy dressing of a very professional attire, tired and helpless. Our viewing of the crisis began after all the groundwork had already been laid – something we viewed through a starting credits scene as Aditya leaves his keys and wallet on his car, attends the wedding of his ex-girlfriend and apparently sets to leave the city.
Jordan, meanwhile, was still Janardhan Jakhar. Rockstar worked in a non-linear manner, so we knew he is a Rockstar. What we didn’t is the story behind his long hair, wild antics and his clear ‘lost in his zone’ look on stage. We start from the beginning then and find what this is a result of. What crisis occurred and that how ‘tute hue dil se sangeet nikalta hai’ is just as true as it was promising to Janardan in his initial comprehension.
Although both the characters are relatable in specs – Kashyap’s gradual rehab learning about the positive side of life and Jordan’s quest to channelise the situation around him – they don’t answer the most important part of our crisis – validation. And Imtiaz solves just that through the final part of his unaccounted trilogy of love and life – Tamasha.
We meet Ved as that cheerful, full of life guy in Europe. Years later, we find him working his 9-6 job in commercial New Delhi, struggling to speak a sentence together with anything close to a smile on his face. So, when Tara (who knows just as much as us) tries to re-invent the former, her effort backfires. While the backfiring looked irritable at first, seemingly delaying the predictable conclusion that this Bollywood drama had moulded itself into, I feel this was Ali’s masterstroke.
What lacked in our channel to get across to Aditya and Jordan’s conscience, was now filled by Ved’s. As we eventually discover, he was aware of where he was going. Through giving up on what he loved, engineering, and being the perfect employee, he lost track of something he later clarifies as bachpan. Despite all that Tara does, he fails to see what he has become – something highly relatable. While movies have given us numerable heroes to show how to come of age, he is our first that shows us the need to. Validation – that yes, our situation and our problems are in fact actual problems and deserve that life altering moment of vulnerability, that needed Ved to shout at Tara.
And Tara. I loved how although Imtiaz constructed the story around Ved, he didn’t leave it for bleak narration in that brief period in the movie we could not know much about the protagonist. Rather, he showed Tara’s side of it. It is almost ideal, here, to call her his conscience. She saw both sides of the being but was aware of being ill-located.
Because it took the time to prove the importance of re-creating Ved, and his antics to defy any efforts to do so (portrayed elegiacally in Rahman’s Tum Saath Ho), Tamasha answered more questions than we expected it to. Such was the playing around of stories in stories by Ali, the predictable ending Tamasha has been accused of was no longer the centre-stone of what the movie challenged thematically.
Tamasha strived on symbolism and Ved’s final interaction with his childhood friend in a baba is probably the most evident of them all. He keeps pushing on his old friend to complete the story Ved thinks he is the protagonist of, only for the story-teller to retaliate. As to why there was resentment was obvious, the realisation wasn’t. They were stories he loved, but they weren’t his. To realise the presence of a freedom to choose where to land his next step, and the absence of a sub-conscious screenwriter of his play was the sub-conclusion of the bigger play – one where Imtiaz Ali tinkered with redemption.
Most people who I have talked to about cinema have connected in parts to all the three characters but could still choose one they could not let go. It is not about which one they kept their hand on but rather the very act that they did. This Imtiaz Ali Universe of realisations and breakthroughs is rich on experience and stands the test of time unlike most. It grows on you and while it has built a convention for itself now, it delivers through different routes of introspection every time. By the time its first chapter unfolded, the cinema map sought for a change. By the time we got to its last, it had forgotten its initials.
- Mayank Malik