To lovers, courting is a performance. In various hues, each person negotiates the needs of the performance, trying to catch an eye, an attentive ear and the ever-so-slight smile of acknowledgment. “Look out for the signs,” they say. But what if, the signs were wrong? What if you had read it wrong even when you so surely felt butterflies fluttering in your belly? And what if the magic fades? Imtiaz Ali’s recent, the Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone starrer Tamasha, is an earnest effort at recapturing the lost magic. It is also a story that begins with a play. And a film that holds aloft a banner announcing the arrival of madness because being normal means being mediocre.
A robot and a clown enter the stage and take us back to the life of a boy who loves to live inside stories. Everyday he walks up to the story-teller in town to listen to how Sita awaited Ram and how Laila-Majnu fell in love. At school, he smiles as he holds the secret of the stories he learned by heart. Interspersed in these shots, is a bewildered family wondering at the boy’s solitary conversations and bursts of ecstatic joy which have no apparent reason.
Cut to Corsica and we find the boy, now an adult (played by Ranbir Kapoor), meeting a girl (Deepika Padukone). As she tries to seek help from a local, the boy walks in and offers help. The girl has lost her address, her wallet and money. The boy helps her and then takes her on a joyride into his world of stories. Every conversation with the boy keeps the girl in rapture.
Three days later, the passport is found arrives. It is then that the girl is hit by the world outside because when they met, not only did the girl and boy decide to not divulge their names to each other, they also agreed to never meet after Corsica. Painfully aware of losing a dream, the girl makes love to the boy and leaves, hoping that she would be out of the dream as soon as she reaches home.
In Kolkata, the girl walks off the airport wondering if she would ever meet the boy who had stories to narrate at the drop of a hat. She meets her boyfriend at the airport and evades a kiss realising that she can never go back to who she was. Embracing the madness that the boy gave her, she hopes and waits for a time when the boy would meet her. One day she does. They introduce themselves. She tells him that her name is Tara and he tells her that his name is Ved.
A new chapter of the film begins when Tara learns that the man she loves lives a different life outside of the storybook. He is a yes-man, the man who learns to live according to a daily routine and the man who never breaks rules. Though she finds the difference striking, Tara holds on and waits for Ved to break into a jig. He doesn’t. And as days pass, Tara’s smile fades and she realises how Ved has leashed his madness to fit into the world that demands normalcy.
In his effort to project the mind of Ved bursting at its seams, Ali takes cue from Shakespeare who said the famous, “All the world is a perfect stage And all the men and women merely players “.
While all of this is certainly new, Ali’s storytelling abilities waver at various points of the movie. For example, when he weaves Rahman’s music into the narrative to tell us how Tara has embraced a bit of Ved’s madness and then has a song for Ved as he breaks out of his shell, he tries too hard at bringing the idea of a musical to the audience. Similarly, Ali’s well meaning attempts at showing Tara and Ved becoming yin and yang is also a pain at times. Why does the duo keep talking, we ask. Why aren’t the laughs coming out even when they are supposedly being funny?
Just like Vikas Bahl’s Shandaar, Imtiaz Ali’s Tamasha has its heart in the right place. But, in his enthusiasm to celebrate madness, Ali lulls the audience with his over indulgence. So when the movie finally ends and the Ved-Tara jodi appears onscreen to show one last shot of their madness, a couple sitting in the audience is forced to ask: “Haven’t we spent enough time on this?”