Maslow lists self-actualization, including creativity, as the highest human need, much above love, money, and sex. Tamasha is a film about a storyteller (Ved, played by Ranbir Kapoor), who fools himself into believing that he is meant to meander in mundane materials, whereas his true calling is to dream lazily in a make-believe world, populated with elves, goblins and fairies — or whatever the desi equivalents of these fanciful creatures, which exist on the edge of our oneiric conscience, like a Fata Morgana.
On a trip to French Corsica, among rain washed streets, paved sidewalks overladen with grape vines and sweet-scented blossoms, and waves pounding on steep cliffs lining the craggy shoreline, he briefly meets a woman by chance (Tara, played by Deepika Padukone), and gives in to his creative instincts. She comes to love him for his tomfoolery and uninhibited artistic flair; little knowing that he is nothing but a grounded, humble, sycophantic, ordinary, working class, mediocre product manager in a family-owned enterprise, with a humdrum life that starts and ends with the chimes of an alarm clock, and with no greater ambition than to earn his daily bread.
So when chasing the dream she has of this man, from what she has seen of him in Corsica, she finally stalks him down to a Delhi bar that he visits often, she is disappointed that he has turned out to be a pale, washed out, unexciting version of the debonair, dashing romantic she knew. But she has seen him through, and realized that his real self is the Corsican identity that had burst forth in that romantic milieu of the idyllic town by the sea, and not the staid foot soldier of the proletariat that is outwardly apparent to the practical world now. She rejects him, leaving him with the advice that he should surrender to the realization of his true self, rather than keeping a façade of the earthy, hardworking, corporate minion.
The man, from hardworking refugee lineage, has learned early to conform and please, both of which he does easily. He scoffs at her, and tells her his real self is what she sees now, so take it or leave it. Obviously, she leaves it; who wants a low-paid, boring, desiccated engineer, with not a spark of life, working for a Punjabi Bania? When you have walked into Wonton, you want hot spicy Punjabi-Chinese, not a lettuce and cabbage salad garnished with lemon and black pepper.
Thereafter, jolted badly with the rejection, the nervous boy spends the rest of the movie pining for the girl, fighting with himself and his family and employers, and struggling to discover his true identity. On a visit to another storyteller like himself, he finally finds the answer about what he truly wants in life.
By then it is too late — the wearied kids have gone to sleep, the mothers have escaped to the mirrors in the ladies room to tend to imaginary blemishes, the men have started flirtexting to buxom secretaries, and the lascivious front row has started filing to the ribald-jokes air of the smoking room. I have the greatest admiration for that great mop of curly hair on Imtiaz Ali’s head, and his dimpled chin and chubby cheeks, but I will not let my weakness come in the way of getting my bang for my buck. When I’ve handed over a thousand of the crispies, I expect my money’s worth — period.
For writers, as for moviemakers, there are markets, for each kind of reader — such as, speculative, sports, action-adventure, crime, romance, erotica, literary, artsy and pure commercial hot-cake-like-selling stuff — and one is expected to sell his wares in the target market. Now, you may want to pen down ream upon reams of deep, Freudian, Maslowian-Organization-Behavior-theoretic stuff, but do it on a self-publishing, vanity platform where nobody else can get to it. Don’t inflict your psychology on a guy who is only looking for biology. I want Sunny Leone, and you give me auntiji? That’s not going to work, is it — putting two sexy artists together and then tying their hands and feet. Deepika’s Tara nails it in the movie when she says, “Dekh ke hi kaam chalana padega, bachchu!” (You may look, but not touch.) It’s as much for Ranbir’s Ved as for you and me.
Deepika has endless long limbs that entwine around you, like slimy, skinny creepers. Ranbir looks fresh faced with a profile like Karisma Kapoor’s father’s. The French are portrayed as hedonists perpetually on a wine tasting holiday, with choirs and colorful pageants always dotting their narrow streets, and on every square squeaking violinists; the film shows them as imbeciles taken in easily by the rakish skills of Ved.
Imtiaz has written long-winded, stilted, jaded dialogue that serves no purpose except to keep the audience awake, and to have the actors’ skills in memorizing tedious lines constantly challenged. When the writer is more in love with his words than his tale, when the couturier is more in love with style than comfort, and when the moviemaker is more in love with the technique than entertainment, the resulting potpourri can only induce disappointment and slumber.
The lesson learnt is; never let a woman mess with your mind. And after she has screwed it nice and proper, expect her to want to come back and make a project out of what remains of you, and to nag and mother you to the end of your days. If a woman wants a caricature of a man, let her, it’s her problem. You don’t turn yourself inside out and become a travesty — remember, she will want to carefully return you to your previous levels of insanity. And this is exactly what Deepika manages with Ranbir.
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The original version of this review appeared on MouthShut.com.
Nidhi Singh studied English literature at Delhi University. She has a number of novels and miscellany published in India, and her short stories have appeared in various magazines such as Flash Fiction Press, Fabula Argentea, Romance Magazine, Under the Bed and Nebula Rift. She lives near the sea in Kutch, India.