Tamasha: On the Life we Want to Live

And the Norms we Put Up With.

Tamasha: On the Life we Want to Live

Spoilers for Tamasha follow! Please watch the movie and come back.

Tamasha is a Hindi movie starring Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone, released back in 2015. Out of the blue, I was recommended to watch this movie by friend. She believed I would understand and appreciate the movie and its characters and the parallels they try to draw in their journeys.

I wondered why I hadn't watched the movie before, and I remembered that most of the Hindi movies of the similar genre seemed to cater an idealistic world, with storybook love and always feature a tourism ad for some European country. It always left a bad taste in my mouth.

So, with a skeptic mind and coz I did not have anything to watch, I started streaming Tamasha on Netflix. I watched the movie in parts, pausing where I could not put up with the cringe (mainly in the first half), but in the end, I found myself engaged to the story. I did see the flaw in the story-telling and it did have the requisite tourism showcase of a European city, Corsica, this time around, but I could see what my friend wanted me to take away.

Here is a collection of my thoughts and learnings from the movie.

A Passion for Storytelling

The film begins as an onstage skit as part of a spectacle by Ved (Ranbir Kapoor) and Tara (Deepika Padukone); a fact I keep forgetting because of the way I watched the movie. The monotonous office lives of people are shown in the skit and then it switches to a flashback, in Shimla, showing a child Ved. From a young age, we see Ved fascinated by the stories, so much so, that he saves money to hear stores from a roadside storyteller.

I was instantly taken by this character. I love stories, esp. fantasies. I remember troubling my aunt at bed time to tell me fairy tales as a kid and later growing up with a boat load of fantasy. So, it was great to see a fellow connoisseur. Have you wondered what you were passionate about in childhood that you have let go of today?

I was curious to see how Ved had put his passion to use.

Our Travel Persona

We jump a few years later to when Ved and Tara meet in Corsica and Ved builds a most elaborate narrative, which involves choosing not to share their identity. I was happy to see Ved still up to his antics and putting storytelling to good use. It was interesting to note the personas they put up when they meet, where Ved leans into his storyteller side and Tara goes along with it.

A lot of the time, away from our home city, it becomes easy to let go and build our new story. A new character emerges, completed with a different routine and discipline. I have often observed this with myself, where I do not feel like sleeping in too late, love exploring the local streets, and taking night walks. I guess the break from the regular routine serves to shakes things up.

I could see the reluctance in Tara to let go initially, but she finally gives in to Ved and experiences the city with a different mindset, going so far as to fall for him. When she returns, she is indeed a changed person, now having seen life from a different angle. She craves for her new persona and the love she found for Ved, but it is only after 4 years, she seeks him out.

Expectations vs. Reality

4 years pass. Tara goes to Delhi and we find that she seeks out Ved. When Ved and Tara do meet, it is one of those moments we have been looking forward to in the movie. I did anticipate a will they, won't they scenario, but we get to see the two of them go out together.

But, there is always a catch in romantic stories. Our hero and heroine can never settle down happily ever after instantly, a fact even the movie makes clear by referring to other love stories. Where Tara expected an adventurous Ved, she got a 9-5 office-going worker.

The expectations of the society always seem to streamline and hone our uniqueness into a social norm. The only natural way to stability is a 9-5 job. Quoting from another Ranbir Kapoor movie, Yeh Jawani Hai Diwani, which ironically seems the path Ved has chosen for his life:

22 tak padhai, 25 pe naukri, 26 pe chokri, 30 pe bachche, 60 pe retirement; aur phir maut ka intezaar;

study till 22, job at 25, girl at 26, children at 30, retirement at 60; and then wait for death;

Some of us are trapped in this illusion, so well, that they are constantly on that track, running for next new shiny. We find Ved in a similar state living his life. As Tara goes out with him, she finds herself stuck in a daily rut. So, she rejects him and that leads to his breakdown. He confronts her later on reminding her that they promised to tell lies to each other in Corsica and if she was not happy with him, how can she even claim that this was not his real self. He screams at her: "How would you know my nature in 7 days?!"

Indeed how could someone know someone else's nature in a short span of time? We are so used to putting up masks that getting those first few layers down itself will take ages. It is in the case of Ved, that in his travel persona, he revealed his true passion. It is easy to be somebody else when you are away from your home or even your true self.


Tara breaks Ved's daily routine. Cracks form in his routine as he begins to make up stuff in his presentation, change his unfit bit by bit and even acts up to his boss. He begins to change, slipping in and out of the freer persona.

Perhaps we all need our mad moments to process our true selves and remold the world in our favor. The world is never ready for our truest nature. It is sure to be blinded by it, just like we would be blinded if see the true form of the Greek Gods. But it is our duty to represent and be our best self in this one single life of ours.

The turmoil of emotions that we go through as our new self fights the old self is huge. In that stage of processing, everything is flux and we tend to lash out to anyone, who tries to help. This can get severe to the ones especially close to us and that is what happens to Ved.

Agar Tum Saath Ho

There is something about this song that actually breaks me. It holds two perspectives: one of hope and love and one of desolation and despair.

It nicely summarizes there state of minds at that point of the movie, where Tara is ready to accept Ved, but Ved is still broken and mad.

What do you fear?!

Back in his home town, Ved seeks some semblance of sanity, which he doesn't find in his family and he remembers his favorite storyteller, whom he runs to see for another story. This time he wants to know his story. It is then that he is confronted by the storyteller: "Why are you being a coward?! Why are you asking me to tell your story?"

Ved understands that he always knew the answer and now he knows what to do. There is always a path. Once we lift ourselves out from despair, we can see it. And that is what Ved does, the instant he gets back home. He makes his parents understand his pain and where this is all going to end up if he doesn't change.

Hero's Journey

I couldn't help but connect the Hero's journey to the movie. The hero’s journey is a common story narrative template, that involves a hero who goes on an adventure, learns a lesson, wins a victory with that newfound knowledge, and then returns home transformed. The hero’s journey can be boiled down to three essential stages:

  • The departure. The hero leaves the familiar world behind.
  • The initiation. The hero learns to navigate the unfamiliar world.
  • The return. The hero returns to the familiar world.

We see Ved and Tara play the role of mentor and helper interchangeably serve to shake things up in the other's life (for more details, read here).

In Corsica, it was Tara's journey as she receives the call to adventure and has her world shaken up, which she realizes when she comes back to her home. Her life has changed and she has to live with this new normal and her love, who is not with her.

We do not get to see how she struggles with integration in her 4 years, but she still holds here new self until she find's Ved again.

Hero's Journey

We get to see the Ved's journey in much more detail, with a clear point of the death of his monotonous self and rebirth of his original self. he is able to bring back his boon to his regular life and incorporate it in his passion in storytelling, turning that into his career.

Unlike a regular hero, we tend to go through the hero's journey time and time again. You can look back at those highs and lows and chart the journey and the changes to your self.

Life is not a race

And with that, we are coming to a close. I want to leave you with a story, the one that Ved shares with his parents and a few final thoughts.

Life is not a race. This is your story. Write it your way. We are all the authors of our destiny. I guess we occasionally forget when we give in to our fears and the pressure around us. But we have to remember that we are in control. Of course, we can't go full mad, we do have responsibilities. But we can take steps to get better, to get 1% closer every day to our dream, to our better self.

If only human life were so simple...
And yet I am happy it is not.

Why always the same story? Choose tamasha!

tamasha (noun):
a grand show, performance, or celebration, especially one involving dance.

Originally published on 23rd July, 2023