I just finished watching Tashan, a movie I didn’t really expect much from. A lot has been written about how it’s an homage to the masala films of the 1970s, and it’s often been unfavorably compared to Om Shanti Om—a film that fared much better with critics and audiences alike.
But this is the thing: Tashan has the heart and the soul of a 70s masala film. Ironically, what it lacks is the style of a 70s masala film. The key ingredients for Masala Goodness are in the characters: their emotions, motivations and relationships to one another. In other words, the story! The action is kept relatively simple until the end, when we get a satisfying showdown between the hero and the villain.
Tashan has an excellent story, which unfortunately is overshadowed (and ultimately almost derailed) by the slick special effects, violence, and sexy dance numbers. Here, the glamour and the action (car crashes, guns, explosions, acrobatics, jet skis) take center stage. The story—the friendship developing between polar opposites Jimmy and Bachchan Pande, the romance rekindled for Bachchan and Pooja, Pooja’s need for vengeance—is relegated to the sidelines.
If the story had been put in the forefront, with far less of the “Look what we can do!” stuff, this could have been a really good film. That it isn’t, I blame on the director (and probably the writer and the editor). The actors did their work superbly.
Saif Ali Khan is perfect as the arrogant English-speaking professional who gets in over his head and finds himself relying on those whom he would normally find unreliable.
Akshay Kumar—besides having the best entrance ever—is entirely believable as the uneducated thug from Kanpur who melts into a puddle when his love comes near, and who in the end has to choose between the blind loyalty of a lifetime and real new friendship.
Kareena steals the show as Pooja, a girl hell-bent on destruction—hers and Bhaiyyaji’s—who finds a reason to look outside herself and to live, finally.
And Anil Kapoor as Bhaiyyaji is hilarious as he mangles the English language. He is a little caricatured—but then, the villain often is, in 70s masala movies.
As for the music, “Falak Tak” is an effective song because it moves the narrative along, and “Dil Dance Maare” is just oodles of fun. The lyrics made me giggle:
I could have lived without the other song picturizations though; they were self-conscious and unnecessary for the most part (although I understand that Kareena in a bikini is a big draw for some).
So the upshot is: I found myself moved by and invested in the characters and the story, but couldn’t settle comfortably into it because of the endless and elaborate interruptions.
Another masala-perfect thing (probably accidental) was the occasional misspelled subtitle:
When I watch Tashan again, I’ll fast-forward through most of it and try to just enjoy the plot. If only they had spent more of that precious time on the characters. Sigh.