'Tamasha, in my mind, was so close to the idea Imtiaz Ali had planted in our heads that evening.'
'The idea of embracing the unknown, sans baggage, of oddities adding that spark to our lives, and looking beyond the obvious, the conventional,' says Chandrima Pal.
It was one of the most anticipated films of the year.
For Ranbir Kapoor, who has had a bad run at the box office, Tamasha was supposed to be the magic wand, reuniting him with Deepika Padukone, who had earlier gifted the star his career's biggest hit in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani.
For fans and followers of Imtiaz Ali, who swear by his lyrical, astonishingly romantic world view, it was another chance to experience his creative genius.
The film may or may not have disappointed fans of both Ranbir and Imtiaz (Deepika's fans have nothing to complain about!), but it did remind one of an evening in South Mumbai three years ago.
Ali, who was yet to announce his next project after Rockstar, was at a book launch. It was a cosy gathering, with a smattering of senior journalists, book lovers and media persons.
Ali arrived with his young daughter (it later emerged that he was going through a tumultuous phase in his married life) and kept making eye contact with her, speaking to her in sign language in between fielding questions, as she sat at the cafe on the mezzanine floor. Apparently, father and daughter had spent the afternoon bonding over equestrian specimens at the race course.
Despite a part of his head and heart being with his daughter, Ali was very much in the moment, playing the part he had been invited to play.
Gracious, charismatic, and the star of that evening's tamasha.
The book, A Song For I, about a girl who is abandoned by her musician father and falls in love with a tormented, aspiring rockstar -- may have some tenuous connection to Ali's last work. But we were soon to find out that it was not why the filmmaker had agreed to be there.
As he read out a passage from the book -- about how the protagonist Ira is smitten after she watches Vishnu play a roaring audience -- he smiled a rare smile.
'The reason I was drawn to the book,' he said, 'was the unusual title, A Song For I. It is odd, seemingly incorrect, and yet not easy to forget,' he told the gathering later. 'I like ideas that don't seem to fit into what is our idea of what is conventional.'
He also spoke about how he agreed to be a part of the event, despite his insanely busy pre-production phase (Highway, Tamasha) because he was unfamiliar with the team behind the event.
'I do not know the author, the people doing this, there was no baggage, no pre-conceived notion of who or what they are or represent,' he said. 'It appealed to me.'
In the silent moments after the end credits had rolled for Tamasha, I sat mulling his words.
Tamasha, in my mind, was so close to the idea he had planted in our heads that evening. The idea of embracing the unknown, sans baggage, of oddities adding that spark to our lives, and looking beyond the obvious, the conventional.
Critics have debated over how Tamasha has bits and pieces of all his films. But what if he has actually scattered bits and parts of himself in all his films? There are some incredibly tender moments in the film, which could well be autobiographical. You never know.
Tamasha is strange, oddly beautiful. It has its awkward moments, its disappointments and its crass, sellout moments that break your faith in Ali. But it also stirs something rare in your heart if you are willing to give it a chance.
PS: A confession -- The book that Imtiaz Ali launched that evening has been authored by yours truly.