Imtaz Ali’s (writer and director) “Tamasha” is all about finding your true purpose in life. Am I here just to fulfill my duty to my family or to society? Or do I have a duty to myself? Ali follows Ved Vardhan Sahni (Ranbir Kapoor) through three important stages of his life.
Not really interested in school, 9-year old Ved is obsessed with stories. All his free time and money is spent on an old storyteller who dispenses stories a half-and-hour at a time. The stories, a mix of the Mahabharata and Ramayana, Greek mythology, and the Bible, set Ved’s imagination on fire. When he returns home, he secretly re-enacts each character.
At nineteen, Ved is forced to make a decision regarding his future. As he tries to explain to his father, “I don’t want to study engineering actually”. This is not acceptable to his father who tells Ved he must live up to the sacrifices of his family before him. Motivated by guilt, a dutiful Ved tries to fulfill his father’s wishes. He struggles through college and eventually takes a job in a marketing company.
Moving into the present, Ved leads a passionless and boring life as a Product Manager for a large corporation. He is preoccupied with things like what is “trending” now. He is super polite, extremely nice, and everyone likes him. Ved always tries to live up to his boss’ high expectations of him. He is successful but devoid of passion or emotion.
Four years ago on holiday in Corsica, Ved rescues a girl named Tara (Deepika Padukone). Newly arrived, Tara has lost her suitcase and her money. Feeling an instant connection, Ved encourages Tara to join him in a secret game. They will not talk about their real lives. They will live out their fantasy lives for the next week. They will then part and never meet again. Ved and Tara spend a wonderful week in Corsica and part as planned. Four years later, Tara can’t get Ved out of her mind. She longs for the fun and adventure they shared in Corsica. Tara eventually tracks Ved down, but he is not the entertaining companion she remembers.
“Tamasha” is not a typical Bollywood movie. It’s subject matter, parents expectations which clash with those of their sons and daughters, is a reality in Indian middle class society. As Ved’s taxi driver says at one point, “Not a damn soul knows me. Inside, I am another man. Outside, I am powerless.” Ranbir Kapoor’s acting is terrific. He was able to capture a young man who has repressed his emotions so much so that now he is not even aware of them. When Tara encourages him to be himself, Ved becomes very conflicted internally – he doesn’t know who he is. When these emotions come flooding to the surface, Ved can’t control them.
Deepika’s Tara is bright, intelligent, and self-sacrificing. “Tamasha” is Ranbir’s story, but he is stuck and unable to escape his life without her influence. She sees what he can be and encourages him to go for it, a role played by women since time began. Deepika acting is natural and effortless.
Yash Sehgal as 9 year-old Ved is a Ranbir Kapoor look alike and an engaging actor in his own right. The magnificent beauty and charm of Corscia is shown wonderfully by cinematographer Ravi Varman. Music director A. R. Rahman brightens the story with songs that are quirky and relevant to the story. I did find the movie lingered a bit too long in places, and would have benefited from sharper editing.