There was a time when movies from Yash Raj Films(YRF) were the most anticipated events of the summer. Tight scripts, sharp dialogues and crisp visuals were wrapped in a tasty confection decorated with chaste but gorgeous white-clad heroines and Swiss locales. YRF has been responsible for mainstream classics like Deewar and Trishul but lately, the prestigious banner seems to have gone into a prolonged slump.
I can almost pinpoint the beginning of the decline. The year was 1995, and young Aditya Chopra has just helmed one of the biggest Bollywood hits of all time, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. Thrilled by the success of DDLJ, the elder Chopra passed the baton, content to direct the occasional movie under what was now, for all practical purposes, his son’s production house.
Since then, there has been a concerted push to change the tone of the YRF offerings, an aggressive wooing of the young and happening crowd, as exemplified by the disastrous Neal and Nikki, a ghastly voyeuristic film more obsessed with the exposed underwear of its fledgling heroine Tanisha( Kajol’s sister) rather than any adherence to story or script.
Other duds like Tara Rum Pum and Jhoom Barabar Jhoom have exacerbated the crisis, which appears to be spreading to the rest of mainstream Bollywood, given the influence and predominance of the Yash Raj banner. A formula appears to have emerged in this decade that characterizes these movies: Glossy production values, technical brilliance, A-list stars, funky clothes, plots and locations that bear more than a passing resemblance to Hollywood and none at all to reality, English-laden dialogues, heavily synthesized dance music, and a barely dressed cast. There is no evidence that this formula is working but, like lemmings, every other movie that comes out of Bollywood these days faithfully adheres to it.
Tashan (loosely translated as “style” or “attitude”) is yet another example of this current mode of film-making. Produced by YRF, it is directed by yet another in-house talent who has been offered a chance to direct.
It begins promisingly enough; a red mini convertible weaves on a deserted road as its radio alternates between pop and Hindi music before it plunges into a lake. The first 15 minutes of the movie are pure Bollywood masala, delicious and funny. From there the movie deteriorates rapidly into farce despite the heroic efforts of a terrific and terrifically misused cast.
Once you separate the huge amounts of fluff, the basic plot is not bad( not original in the least and owing more than a passing inspiration to Hollywood, but not bad). Jimmy Cliff( all the characters have crazy names), played by Saif Ali Khan, is a call center operator who is lured by the seemingly wholesome Pooja (Kareena) into embezzling 25 crores from her boss, the UP don Bhaiyyaji( hammed outrageously by Anil Kapoor, who seems to have found a post-hero niche in these “Country bumpkin turned mod” roles). Akhsay Kumar, calling himself Bachchan Bachchan Pandey(I’m pretty sure there are 2 B’s there) is the bounty hunter recruited to chase the two lovebirds.
Now if the director had stayed with this plot, instead of adding more and more ingredients to the simple chawal dal, Tashan might have ended up a great movie, worthy of repeat viewings. Saif is tailor-made for the role, playing a lover boy with a horseshoe moustache with pizzazz. Kareena looks awesome, even doing a Halle Berry and emerging from the sea in (gasp!) a tinier outfit than Halle. Usually when the leads are involved off-screen, the on-screen chemistry falls flat but not here – the two positively sizzle. Akhay Kumar does the best possible with his role and gamely makes a fool of himself when required.
But instead of sticking to its obvious strengths, Tashan goes all over the place in an attempt to please every segment of the Indian audience. There are two identically dressed comic sidekicks who made me want to scream, a long emotional flashback sequence for both Kareena and Akshay, and a 30-minute climax scene that feels like Sholay on drugs and a multi-crore budget. I suspect this is because the plot is a total lift from some Hollywood movie( enlighten me please, dear readers) and the director and scriptwriter felt honor bound to make it their own by adding their touches to it.
The music is peppy but forgettable and the songs really seem extraneous, like they used to in the 80’s when they had no relation to the plot. Their only purpose seems to be to display a variety of toned bodies to hormonally-challenged young males( and females).
The end result is a crazy mishmash of high-octane but senseless action and pointless slapstick, ridiculous props and half-naked women (and men). The actors keep irritatingly breaking the fourth wall and talking to the audience. There is a bra joke that goes on too long (and shouldn’t have been there in the first place) and you feel sad for these talented actors (remember Saif and Kareena in Omkara?) for having to do this kind of stuff.
I hope Tashan is a super, super flop so Bollywood and Yash Raj Films can find their way back to the wholesome movies that made their audiences laugh, weep and engage with the characters for so many years in great mainstream movies like Lamhe, Dil to Pagal Hai and Bunty Aur Babli. Avoid it unless desperate for some mainstream filmy fare.
Tashan *ring Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Akshay Kumar, Anil Kapoor
Directed by Vijay Krishna Acharya
Produced by Yash Raj Films.
My rating: 2 stars out of 5.