Sunday, April 05, 2009

Tashan

[Spoilers ahead.]

I liked Tashan.* I didn't love Tashan, which probably isn't surprising, given that I'm not nuts about the writer/director Vijay Krishna Acharya's other projects. I thought it was way worse in the last fourth or so, but that's how a lot of movies go. I liked the story full of double-crosses. I liked the romances. I liked the strong female character who takes on the bad guy and makes her own decisions and carries them through (even though vigilante revenge isn't really my thing).**

I did not like the stupid homophobic floppy-handed high-voiced joke.


But on to the question that interests me most based on what other people have been saying about it in the year since it was released: is Tashan true blue masala? Here's how it broke down for me.

Masala? Haan!
Orphan. Extra points for a child actor who looks nothing like grown-up star.


Sparkly outfits!


Fugly outfits!


Sequined green gym shorts? Yikes.

Ultimately useless law enforcement.


Weird, grandstanding, unstable villain.


Accidental embraces.


Oversized love discovered through seemingly irrelevant, coincidental sharing and tied nicely to childhood and hometown.


Hindu epics.


Pan-Indianness, handled surprisingly subtly with locations rather than stock characters.



Rain song.


Dutiful children.


Long-lost loves and a new-found brotherhood.

More than enough dishoom, disguises, and general antics.

Comedy, action, and all the rest in a big scramble.


Masala? Nahiin!
Its WTFiness came almost entirely in how things happened rather than in which things happened. With the exception of the double-crosses, most of the plot is focused and straightforward and contains very little extraneous lines like stupid comic relief. I agree with Memsaab that some of the Dhoom-like fripperies got in the way of momentum. That Sea-doo, for example, or the fact that in Bhaiyyaji's dusty, fiery compound there was a stream of water big enough to use a Sea-doo in. This is not the kind of WTF I want in my masala.

That's really about all it does wrong - and by "wrong" I mean "not cooking with proper or sufficient ingredients to meet my R(ecommended) M(asala) (Allowance)" - on paper, but I simply did not feel that it had much heart. I never went "awwww" or "Wheeeee!" and I was never invested in anybody's arc. It didn't compel me - in fact, it took me at least five sittings to get through it, not because it stank but because it didn't draw me in. In the utterly wonderful and not dissimilar Grosse Pointe Blank,*** the hired killer tells his psychiatrist that he's had a dream in which he is the Energizer Bunny. The doctor says it's a depressing dream. "It's got no brain! It's got no blood! It's got no anima! It just keeps banging on those meaningless cymbals endlessly and going and going and going! [The doctor gets up out of his desk chair.] Time is up."

(The exchange starts at about 3:05, but the whole scene is excellent. The whole movie is excellent.)
That's how I feel. And boy howdy, the violence and blood at the end, that whole rambling finale fight, are the cymbals, crash crash bang bang, on and on and on. I never got a sense of Tashan's spirit. It's kind of like a masala ingredient robot, a perhaps well-designed but ultimately animatronic pink bunny of identity and revenge and reunion.

But it's a funny, entertaining film, and that's perfectly fine. If Tashan was meant to be masala, it failed in my book, but it succeeded at many other goals. I laughed quite a bit, I enjoyed all the songs, especially Pooja's I'm-so-awesome "Chaliya Chaliya"**** with her backup girls that jaunts through a Mediterranean village, and I appreciated that the heroes all let down their guards and let each other in. That's far more than I have to say for either Dhoom, and I hope this indicates a continuing ride on the learning curve for the writer/director.

* I really don't get why so many people hated it and I would be interested to hear or be directed to reasoned discussions about that. Blogical Conclusion, for example, makes me understand why it generally fell flat for him.

** She might be pretty cool, but the fact that she's the only woman in the whole thing is decidedly not.

*** John Cusack and Minnie Driver masala? Worlds imploding! In a good way!

**** Comments on youtube videos of this song will probably offend your sense of being a human being. Avoid yaar.

9 comments:

veracious said...

Hmm, I didn't participate in your "what is masala" discussion enough but I don't know, I think even a masala can fall flat on its face and still have all the elements in there. In that sense, Tashan is masala - it's just not amazingly good such. It's the kind of meal that has elements you like but when asked to describe the whole, you merely say "it wasn't bad".

I actually rewatched this on Saturday to finally show it to a friend, who wasn't really here nor there about it; she did like Akshay a lot and certain bits and pieces, but wasn't fond of the whole. On this rewatch I realized how much the characters addressed the camera and how much it simply didn't work. There's so much I'd change. Starting with Saif's moustache. Saif's character. Saif's clothes. etc. :D

In conclusion, for me it's definitely an entertaining film but it's not one I find easy to return to. Maybe it's the hate it gets, maybe it's that my initial expectations were so ridiculously high.. Regardless, I have developed a sort of difficult relationship with it.

Sujoy said...

masala should be in right proportion or the wonderful recipe turns up as a complete disaster..i think that's the case of tashan...there are indeed a few stuff here n there to like..but beyond that...i struggled to sit thru this one...i m quite proud to survive tashan...yeah, it was tht bad for me

Beth said...

Yes yes yes, it is very much like that - I think it has almost all the important elements except the je ne sais quoi. That's my vague but encompassing assessment.

I read your post on this yesterday, actually :) You definitely thought about it a lot harder than I did - another reason I'm glad we all have different tastes and different favorites that drive us to say interesting things about movies that others don't invest in particularly :)

V entertaining though.

And omg the mustache. Gah!

a ppcc representative said...

No mention of the moobs?

For shame.

SunnyBlueSky said...

hi...I found Tashan to be a good masala movie except where last 30 minutes....it was seriously funny in bits & pieces....

Amrita said...

Really, the reason I hated this movie so had to do with why you think this movie fell flat as a masala: its attempted reinvention of the genre.

Any kind of reinvention requires a certain amount of intellectual input. You're questioning the whys and wherefores and distilling and deconstructing ideas into their purest form so you can reinterpret and rework it. I thought Dibaker Banerjee's explanation of how his movie Khosla ka Ghosla is essentially a remake of Trishul was right on the money.

Unfortunately for Tashan, masala's number one requirement is that it plays on human emotions. KkG for eg, got that. At its core it was about the father and saving his dream, and that centered the movie. We like to joke about masala being formula movies, but its still cinema - if there was a magic 2+2 equation that could make a movie work then Love Story 2050 would have been the smash hit of the ages. In Tashan, they got all the colorful bits that make masalas fun - a hot babe, great songs, arch villain, etc, and they even tried to give a little bit of emotional heft by making it a revenge movie but ultimately it was a lot more invested in its hyper masala cleverness and, as you mention, fell flat on its face.

You might call it a new low on the masala scale: the zombie masala!

It's funny, but the other movie that went this way was SRK's Don which seems to have worked for half the people who saw it, including me. Why did that work and Tashan not? Maybe because by switching things around and playing on audience expectations, Farhan Akhtar cleverly made it personal. Or maybe it was because everybody in Don acted like they did in Ye Olde Masala - they played it straight.

theBollywoodFan said...

...but I simply did not feel that it had much heart.

I think you've got it, Beth. The lack of heart made this quite a disaster for me (almost tied with Love Story 2050 and Drona for 2008 honors, LOL). I had a hard time finding it engaging, and I tried.

And Amrita, 'zombie masala' it is!

Temple said...

@PPCC - enough! Bas! No more moob talk...Eeeewwwww
@ Beth - I saw this with a big bunch of friends, we had a ball because we could share the ridiculousness and throw popcorn at the big screen and all that. I don't think its a movie for contemplative moods. I am not a fan of Saif but seriously - who thought that the mo and the red girl belt worked? Who? And his character was really not necessary for the second half of the movie, and just seemed stuck on because he had to be there to get the hero biling.
Kareena was her usual wooden up-herself self, but with great and silly shoes. Akshay chewed the scenery and spat it out in the audience' face. Anil needs to wear a (non-transparent mesh free) shirt and button it up to the very top at all times. But he mangled his hinglish so well, I did laugh a bit even though I had hands over my eyes a lot.
I agree with the comment re Don - for some reason that was a much more satisfying movie and not just because of SRK. I just think it was a bit smarter, more cohesive and well built plot, with better acting and a few good song moments.

TheQuark said...

I thought the movie was *okay*. It would have been wonderful if it could have been stylized like a comic book. To me the epitome of the movie was Akshay Khanna's fight sequence. Many elements could have been reduced or removed to make it crisp.