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Tamasha is Michaelangelo painting a masterpiece on art. It’s Wordsworth penning a verse on poetry. It’s the ultimate ode of a raconteur on his oeuvre, the art of telling tales. The tribute may work for some and may not for others. But a glorious one it is to watch for all.
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It’s of course the moments of pure madness and originality that linger after the film is done with. Dev Anand must be perhaps the most mimed film personality of all times, and for obvious reasons. Ranbir is all fun and frolic paying his tribute to Dev sa’ab in the song Matargashti. Where Imtiaz goes beyond others is how this mimicry continues seamlessly for another 5 minutes after the song, well into an actual scene. That’s unexpected. The apology scene is not just unexpected; it’s simply out of the world. It’s the kind of scene that you’d write with high ambitions on paper, and then cull it out because it’s probably going to be impossible to pull of. But the director, the star, and the supporting actor come together to give us a hell of a scene, one that brought instant applause from a full house.
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The film’s structure can be beguiling to follow because it swings back and forth in time more than once. These cuts are cleverly planned for impact, because each switch brings a revelation that explains something you’ve seen previously.
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Ranbir’s character – and therefore his performance – is singled out for maximum attention in the film. The writers never really clarify if he is genuinely schizophrenic or he’s just having a meltdown. He’s not of course, and you do know that, but it’s never made clear. This is a dangerously vague territory to trod in with your lead actor in a Bollywood film. Similarly, why he behaves the way he did in Corsica isn’t explicitly clear either. What caused him to switch from one persona to other, and then back? For Imtiaz, it’s not important to explain, and it isn’t. As an actor, Ranbir eschews the underlying complexities of his part with gusto, flair, and fluidity. No other actor knows more of what to do with their hands and feet in any given scene, and there’s a wholesomeness to his performances that sets him apart. It’s probably true that Imtiaz may write a role like Ved in a film like Tamasha because he has an actor like Ranbir Kapoor to play it – a successfully symbiotic relationship between actor and director.
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It leaves not a lot of space for other actors. Deepika Padukone just about bounces off on his energy, and manages to hold her own in the scene where she rejects his proposal. For most parts though, she’s simply reacting to her co-lead’s dramatics.
The film is shot beautifully in two disparate environments. It breaks into the sunlight, warmth and the open skies of Corsica and Shimla when Ved becomes the person he dreams of being. When he’s forced to be an android of his real self, it is the Delhi winters in cramped interiors that frame the proceedings. Irshad Kamil and AR Rahman combine once more for a delightful score. Funky, moody, naughty – you have it all in Tamasha’s sound track.
There are stories that make you feel like you’ve just spring-cleaned the attic, removing the cobwebs and shedding the past. There are stories that make you feel like you’ve jumped from the skies in free fall, where you and the world are one. There are stories that take you deep within yourself, where all that exists is you and nothing else. Imtiaz Ali’s Tamasha is a bit of all, and then some.
If I briefly digress to a flashback of his previous films for context, Imtiaz Ali has generally been criticized of making the same film repeatedly – boy and girl meet (usually on a journey), sing songs and separate, realize they love each other, and figure a way to get back. For one, this is partly incorrect. Rockstar was nothing like his other films, nor was Love Aaj Kal. More importantly, so what if the plot is similar? Steven Spielberg’s publicly acknowledged his own inclination towards the motif of chase, and some of his best films follow this overarching idea. I do not compare him to Spielberg, but the point is this – none of his films are similar; that at least is evident. The fact is, his evolution as a filmmaker becomes even more evident with every film he makes on this basic premise. In how he’s chosen to tell his tale, Tamasha is the most ambitious and most sophisticated handling of his chosen material. It elevates and embellishes his artistic credo as a filmmaker. It takes his film into a domain where those watching begin to have subjective ideas of what was good and what was not. So it may not work in the opinion of many, but can anything that stands so tall, aim so high and leap so wide be anything short of a real spectacle – a tamasha, if you will – even if it falls?