Story, Identity, Spectacle: A Review Of Tamasha

It starts with a boy. An old guy under a tree narrating stories from all over the world to a child. And it moves to the grown hero making a friend, and more, with a girl without exchanging even their real names.

tamasha_640x480_51442924553It starts with the girl. Alone and then, not so alone, as she strikes a friendship with a stranger. With a promise to not remain friends. But you know how it is. They become more than friends. Get separated. They meet again, but she meets a completely different person when she meets him again. Gone was the reckless storyteller, the impulsive raconteur, the guy brimming with life, with weird ideas and stories. She found a corporate drone.

This is the story of that guy, and their relationship. This is a story of the usual middle class story we all are told and then we all attempt to replicate. Work hard at the “subjects”, study, work, die. Excellence, when it happens, is an accident. Happiness at job, if it happens, is happenstance. Happiness in life is defined by standard goals and predefined milestones.

This is about the chains that bind us, about the pain of the chains and the pain of breaking the chains. Is there liberation at the end of this tunnel, or have the chains dug so deep they’re now a part of us?

This is not perfect film. The weirdness becomes too much at times. The narrative is self-indulgent. The stories of the old storyteller are often too jumbled up to follow. About an hour in, I was scared about where it was going. But this is a film that grows. I suspect that may happen in more ways than one.

tamasha-2Imtiaz Ali has a bad habit of making films that become habit themselves. How many times have we seen Jab We Met? And I have revisited Rockstar several times, often gaining another perspective. This has the potential to be another such affair. But equally, I fear this will not be universally acclaimed. This will be a harder sell for the masses than even rockstar. The lead couple is my hope to give it a leg up.

Because the lead couple is great. Ranbir Kapoor is a chameleon throughout the film. His conversations with the mirror are fantastic. His immersion in his character at holiday, at work, and the progression through the film is flawless. But Deepika, in my view, is what made the screen sparkle. She infuses so much in her character I can imagine her lying utterly exhausted at the end of every shot. This film would have found it hard to sustain interest, despite all the clever writing, had she not been in it.

It is a truism that Rahman’s music grows on you. So do Imtiaz films. and when they collaborate, they create something slightly magical. A kind of slow, imperfect, emotional magic. I liked it. And I think I’ll watch it again. Give it a go. Expect weirdness.

In the classic love stories, heroes go in search of the heroine after they lose her. In Tamasha, the hero has to find himself. And thats what the movie is about.

Left’s Islamism Problem

Islamism is the political ideology seeking the supremacy of Islam over all other values. those “other values” include not just other religions, but also the concepts of freedom, secularism, and the liberal democracy itself. This is what threatens to take over the Islamic world when powers such as ISIS, Taliban, Hamas and other Salafists rise. We must separate this “political” Islam from the religious Islam that ordinary Muslims practice and cherish. Islamism is a poison both to ordinary Muslims and to the rest of the world. But saying g that it has nothing to do with Islam is disingenuous and dangerous. That’s what Left has been preaching, though.

 

Left has had a problem in the west. Given how successful capitalism has been, and given the success of emerging economies as they become more capitalistic, propagating socialism keeping getting unfashionable despite a recent resurgence, via Sanders etc. In general though, the Left in West has become enmeshed with identity politics. Women’s rights, Black rights, Immigrant rights, minority rights in general.

 

These are all issues close to anyone seeking liberty. Equality is the cornerstone of a modern society. The problem starts when this thinking becomes cultish. It is a short distance from “minorities should have rights” to “minorities are always right”. We know this well in India, were there is a history of appeasing minority “leaders”, whether they are right or wrong. And in the name of “social justice” we have created gangs of goons roaming the hinterlands. This approach benefits neither majority nor the minority, nor the socially disadvantaged. It just keeps some leaders happy, the backwards backward and the Left in power.

 

The Left is a means to struggle against oppression. It started against the royalty and the dictators. In 50’s and 60’s, some western Leftists raised their voice against USSR too. Today, they only stand against whoever happens to be the majority in their country. So the American Left idolises the “Eastern Spiritualism” and to them Yoga is the most eclectic exercise ever, but Indian Left starts convulsing as soon as the PM wants to promote it. And while all liberty loving people in the Islamic world recognise the dangers of Islamism, the Westen Left wants to hug and protect everyone who is against Western powers.

 

french-president-francois-hollande-might-give-upCase in point: Francois Hollande, the french president. He belongs to the Socialist Party. He did not support the ban on face-covering burqa that previous president Sarkozy applied. He campaigned to the muslims claiming to be their deliverer from Sarkozy. He got 93% of Muslim votes in a face-off with Sarkozy. That was no doubt a factor in French parliament unilaterally recognizing Palestine.  Even after Charlie Hebdo, Hollande was pretty mild, resisted criticizing Islamism, and tried to prevent the PM of Israel from attending the solidarity march, as that may offend Muslims. So what happened? France is the largest non-Arab exporter of fighters to ISIS. France has had coordinated attacks against jews. Of course Charlie Hebdo. And now this.

 

Why does this happen? Slowly, by broad generalizations. Left feeds into and reinforces the feeling of victim-hood that has spawned political Islam. There have been attacks on countries with Muslim populations by the West, but they were not Islamic nations anyway. Iraq and Libya are probably more Islamic today than they were under their dictators. And There have been more attacks on Muslim countries by other Muslims (Yemen, ISIS, Iraqi Shia-Sunni clashes, Turkish-Kurd conflict, I could go on). If every attack on any Muslim by a non-Muslim is portrayed as an attack on Islam itself, it feeds the narrative of Muslims v/s the rest. It feeds into a feeling of isolation and pushes people into ghettos. It isolates both the sides. Pushes them apart. Left has been feeding this narrative of victimhood to the Islamic world, and the chickens are now coming to roost.

 

If only Hollande was an exception, though. We have a barrage of idiocy from Left, starting with the refusal to recognize the threat of Islamism. When the Left, from Obama onwards, keeps shouting at the top of their voices that ISIS has nothing to do with Islam, they are fooling the world, and probably themselves. ISIS, and similar organizations, have a mission according to their reading of Islam: that of making Islam and Islamic Caliphate the predominant power in the world.

 

By keeping Islam and any criticism of it out of public discourse the Left has created a vacuums that is being filled with rabid hatred of Islam, and of Muslims in general. The rise of far right parties, like UKIP in England, and National Front in France is precisely because the rhetoric of Left seems hollow. When, time and again, bunch of young Muslims kill themselves and others to the chant of “Allah O Akbar”, repeating ISIS has nothing to do with Islam makes less and less sense.

 

Nor does ignoring all reformist, liberal and feminist voices in the Islamic world. Those people, fighting for the oppressed, are painted by the Western Left as cronies of the West. Any criticism of Islam is tarred by the brush of Islamophobia, and brutal suppression is condoned as “cultural difference”. The natural allies of Left are thus abandoned. Long term Leftists are recognising this and raising their voices.

 

It is very important that ordinary Muslims not be tarred by the same brush as ISIS. It is clear that ISIS represents a small minority of Muslims. It is also clear that ISIS and other Islamists do represent some Muslims. And that their ideology is based on Islam. You don’t, after all, see Buddhist ISIS fighters. Islamism is a threat to ordinary Muslims as well as to the non-Muslims. Its imperative that the Left takes a note of it, and fight it. But the head is so far down the sand that I doubt they are listening.