Review of TASHAN

Besides stuff from Hollywood, Bollywood too have its own share of highly anticipated blockbusters, and from some of the trailers shown, I'm hyped to watch them too. Tashan was billed as one of THE most highly anticipated for 2008, but I was quite surprised at the lower than low turnout at the cinemas. When I watched Jodha Akbar, it was a full house, but it wasn't so for Tashan, and I was a little worried.

After watching the movie, I knew why. It was entertaining, but it was fundamentally weak. Just like it's literal English title, which means "Style", Tashan is all style, but little substance. Not that it doesn't have the usual star power, but scenes felt forced, and some bordered on a tad ridiculous, even for Bollywood standards I must say. Which is quite surprising given that Tashan is directed and written by Vijay Krishna Acharya, who wrote Dhoom and Dhoom 2, both of which I enjoyed tremendously.

In his rookie directorial outing with Tashan, while you can't fault his direction, you'd probably scratch your head over the plot, which was clunky at best. It tried to force too many things into the story, though credit be given where it allowed you some avenue to question character motivation, but that came a little too late, and only toward the finale, which left you guessing for just a moment before it latched into full blown action mimicking many a Thai action movie, fused with Hong Kong's wirework and ludicrous firearms and gunplay with zero recoil. And in a bid to include everything including the kitchen sink, you have an assortment of vehicles appearing, and the one that took the cake, in a Dhoom 2 repeat, was the jetski boat in the middle of nowhere.

At best, Tashan can be enjoyed as unintentional comedy, and this is attributed to how the cast hammed up with their characters. Saif Ali Khan plays Jimmy Cliff, a call center executive who gives English tuition, only as a platform for fishing out new girlfriend material. His playboy ways gets junked aside when he meets with Pooja Singh (Kareena Kapoor), who's not exactly who she seems, the meek and sweet natured hottie. She engages Jimmy's services for her boss, mobster Bhaiyyaji (Anil Kapoor), who probably gets most of the laughs as he speaks in broken English and phrases. And to complete the quartet, Akshay Kumar plays Bachchan Pandey, an illiterate gangster for hire who got engaged by Bhaiyyaji to hunt down Jimmy and Pooja when they escape with money stolen from Bahiyyaji's business.

So begins a road trip of sorts, with friends who turned enemies, and enemies whom you know will become friends as the road trip wears on. Jimmy Cliff is probably the most implausible of all, because he goes from zero to hero, executing moves that would shame Rambo, in absolutely no time, which is quite out of character. Kareena Kapoor amps up the sex factor as she uses her charms to guile both men, and has plenty of opportunity to do so given the much touted bikini scenes (which still raises eyebrows and still a big deal in Indian cinema I suppose?), and other costumes that boast of plunging necklines or hemlines way above the knee. Every character has a backstory created, and I thought Akshay Kumar's Bachchan Pandey was probably the best, the most touching and the most fun of the lot, even though his character seemed a lot like a non-green Incredible Hulk with his gravity-defying leaps and power packing punches. His wounds also heal automatically, which impressively puts Wolverine to shame. And the best part is his theme song, which is damn alpha-male and played in ra-ra mode each time he takes on adversaries.

But sad to say, that's the only tune that is memorable, something that repeatedly cheers "Bachchan-Pandey-Bachchan-Pandey". For most Bollywood movies I watch, I will usually be able to, despite the obvious language gaps, emerge from screenings humming a tune or two. I wasn't able to do that after Tashan, because the songs unfortunately just weren't catchy or memorable at all. Usually the song/dance routine works well into the storyline without any necessity to bring the characters out of the current scene or location. That I enjoy, versus plucking them out and plonking them into extreme settings high atop a mountain, or atop jagged rocks on the beach front. They look nice and scenic, but I'd prefer them in context vis-a-vis the current scene.

Tashan probably didn't take itself too seriously, but coming from Vijay Krishna Acharya's story, you probably wanted something a little more decent rather than the ridiculous, and for continuity to be a little more careful as well. Billed as a blockbuster, now I can start to understand why the crowds have already shunned this one. Despite Akshay Kumr stealing the show, Tashan could have been better on the whole.

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