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.
Orphan. Extra points for a child actor who looks nothing like grown-up star.
Sequined green gym shorts? Yikes.
Ultimately useless law enforcement.
Weird, grandstanding, unstable villain.
Oversized love discovered through seemingly irrelevant, coincidental sharing and tied nicely to childhood and hometown.
Pan-Indianness, handled surprisingly subtly with locations rather than stock characters.
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.
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.
Sunday, April 05, 2009