Tashan (2008)

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.

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13 Comments to “Tashan (2008)”

  1. Yes. Sigh. It just pains one to see this craze for FX, DI, and ‘styling’ ruining what could have been perfectly enjoyable films, with such mega stars. The same happens with ‘Sarkar Raj’. Punch bag performances, a dramatic story, but you are constantly distracted by the idiotic camera work, crazy angles, and boom-boom-boom sound track.

  2. Well Banno you will just have to pave the way back to good story telling on a lower budget ;-)

  3. I don’t know if Tashan had that many special effects, to be honest. I think it was trying to package the goodness of the 70’s in a slicker modern wrapper, where perhaps the commercialism of the film worked to its disadvantage (Kareena song). Violence on the other hand I see as at least partly belonging to the 70’s – it was probably never this realistically bloody, but the elements of explosions and blood was there in 70’s action. Still, I agree with Filmi Girl’s essay which I linked to in my review, that Tashan probably understood 70’s films better than Om Shanti Om. In a way I would argue OSO glamorizes the style even more than Tashan, with even less focus on the characters and the story (at least for me OSO’s winking-at-camera filminess made its characters not feel fleshed out enough for me).

    Tashan certainly could use more of that story on the forefront, more character interactions and less emphasis on the matters of style, but nevertheless, the characters are very interesting and likable. I like modern and past films equally, so the film could’ve certainly utilized the combination much more effeciently. Nevertheless, it’s a good attempt.

  4. Bachchan Pande leaping about a la Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon got on my nerves, and there were waaaaaaay more explosions and gunfights and blood and gore than in any Hindi film I can think of prior to 1990 even. The whole thing just felt so like: “Look what we can do, we have the technology!” Just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD. A whole lot less of all that stuff and more fleshing out of the characters and story would have really made for a good film. Instead, it just irritated me. I’m not saying there shouldn’t have been ANY violence, etc., definitely it had its place, I just think it was overdone beyond belief. It’s just my point of view—I know many younger people love the flash and glamour, but I find it unnecessarily intrusive beyond a certain point.

    The characters ARE very likable and engaging, I think I made that point too. The actors all did their jobs really well! :-)

    I liked OSO, enjoyed the jokes and all the self-referencing, but it’s not a film I’d go back to. There wasn’t any heart and soul in OSO, but plenty of style! The costumes, action, etc. seemed just right to me for what the movie was about, but I think the story and characters in Tashan were better.

  5. Oh yeah, you asked for Southie film recommendations .. the post is too long for sotheydance so I posted it at my livejournal: http://fivil.livejournal.com/488005.html

  6. Agree with most of your comments. The violence was so unnecessary, and the climax too long. They really spoiled the rest of it, which was promising (although I didn’t like Anil Kapoor taking on this role; as you say, it’s more about the character development than the acting).

    I thought Dus (2005) and Don (2006) did a much better job of balancing style, substance and action.

  7. I prefer my films to be either slick action with characters I don’t care for at all, or completely character-driven without all that action stuff. Maybe if they hadn’t got the audience’s hopes up with interesting characters (unlike, say, Dhoom 2) people would’ve been able to appreciate the Tashan experience more?

  8. BollywoodFan: Haven’t seen either of those two (thought a Don remake was unnecessary in and of itself) :-) but yes, those things can be balanced (but all too often aren’t).

    Glad you liked KKK :-) It’s a fave!

    Ajnabi: *giggle* I didn’t mind the Dhoom movies, but wouldn’t want to watch a lot of them.

  9. Yeah Tashan isn’t a good movie.Though it’s actions scene are superb but the story isn’t good enough.

  10. This is the only frickin movie that I’ve ever seen that made me want to ask for a refund – and I stole it off the internet!! Next time I’m in BBay, I’m gonna send my internet bill to YRF.

    The only thing I liked out of the whole thing was AK in that Ravan get up. very Lol. Too bad, the action sequences then made him resemble Hanuman more than Ravan. And not in a good way.

  11. Akshay’s entrance was fab, especially his fake laugh at the very beginning of his dialogue. “Hah hah hah!!!”

    But the ridiculous leaping about like Hanuman!—yes, that was too much.

  12. Doesn’t Kareena resemble the Indian Sarah Jessica Parker? I never really thought of it before until I saw the screen caps on here and just had to point it out!

  13. I would recommend that you watch “Johnny Gaddar”, which is one of my favourite, kick ass movies. Debutant Neil Nitin Mukesh (Grandson of legendary playback singer Mukesh) gives a crackling performance, the other actors are very good as well and Dharmendra oozes charm for the short time he is on the screen. The film is made in noir style and is a hell of a thriller.

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