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Life after Tamasha

mohini chaudhuri | Updated on January 19, 2018 Published on January 01, 2016

This too shall pass: Imtiaz Ali has often been accused of repeating one theme in several films   -  Monica Tiwari

A still from Tamasha

Love it or hate it, you can’t ignore Imtiaz Ali’s latest. And bad reviews, of which he’s had aplenty, won’t stop the director from doing the rounds of theatres screening his films

It’s been over a month since the release of Ranbir Kapoor-Deepika Padukone starrer Tamasha, but it took a while for the dust to settle. A quick Google search will reveal long, philosophical and insightful blog posts by viewers, which praise and rip apart the film in equal measure. Its maker Imtiaz Ali is pleasantly surprised to see his piece de resistance triggering strong emotions in viewers, even if it is not all positive. He admits that some of the deconstruction is deeper than what he intended. “It’s beautiful how people are engaging with the film. I would love every person in this universe to love every film I’ve made, but that’s never how it works out. After Rockstar, I realised that views can be bipolar. People hated that film. Thankfully, people haven’t hated this film. There are many who are just disliking it or not getting the point of it,” he analyses.

Ali did the rounds of single-screen theatres across the country to get a first-hand report of how Tamasha was faring. This is a practice he follows with all his releases. When we met last month at a suburban coffee shop in Mumbai, he still had a few more days to go till his film would be swallowed whole by mammoth productions like Dilwale and Bajirao Mastani. “Sometimes you have to hear very rude things about your film. But you’ve got to be aware of the real world. Strangely I’ve got the best reactions in PVR Priya (in Delhi) and Chandan (in Mumbai), where the tickets are less expensive. When I went to Chandan for the first time with my mom, I felt that the movie is connecting with the audience. It’s just a sense,” he says with certainty. It’s oddly refreshing that he’s not that up-to-speed with box office collections. But he can tell you the exact moments in his film that generated applause and whistles in the theatre.

In Tamasha, Ali traces the journey of Ved (Ranbir Kapoor), a boring product manager at a marketing firm who is secretly stifling his real desire to be a storyteller and stage performer. A common critique of the film is that the basic premise of following one’s dream and breaking free of societal pressure is one that Ali has rehashed time and again in all his films — one sees flashes of it in the male protagonists of Jab We Met and Rockstar too. “I don’t know how to react to that. I just write the story that comes to my mind. Maybe I’m not that careful or calculative about the story I want to make. Maybe it is a theme. Could it be?” he asks himself. After a quiet moment of pondering, he declares, “There must be a subconscious reason.” As for the reviews, he calmly asks, “They are awful, na? I’ve not read them but I heard they were horrible.”

Ali’s stories, he says, are born out of life — some his own, but mostly of those around him. He’s an incessant people-watcher, loves to travel, and makes friends easily. “The work (filmmaking) that puts you in a bubble also takes you out and makes you engage with people. For this film I was in Shimla for three months. Now if you meet the same people every day, beyond a certain point, the fact that I’m a filmmaker and that they’ve seen me in newspapers and on Kapil’s comedy show, goes out of their mind. They welcome me to their houses and that gives me a genuine opportunity of involving myself with them and becoming friends. They discuss their problems and I discuss mine,” Ali explains.

Ali’s passion for travelling reflects in all his films. He has a penchant for shooting at locales that are yet to be explored in Indian films. Often he sets his stories in places he hasn’t visited himself, such as Prague, where he shot Rockstar, or Corsica for Tamasha. “I knew Prague was the only capital city in Europe that wasn’t flattened out by the World War so I imagined that its buildings were older than anywhere else. That’s the look I wanted for that portion of my film. For Tamasha I wanted to come up with a place where Indians don’t normally visit, so I thought of Corsica or Ecuador,” he says.

He’s unsure of where his next film will take him. At this point he is bouncing off a few ideas to those around him and getting a sense of what people might want to see him make next. “I’m open to taking feedback at any stage. Even before the film is made,” he says. As for the feedback he’s collected on Tamasha, he says it will take him a good two years before he can analyse the film objectively. “I’m not trying to make notes but there are some bold strokes that I won’t forget. If I’m insecure about something and I hear some criticism which points in the same direction, I’ll never forget it,” he says.

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Published on January 01, 2016
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