Director: Sanjay Jadhav
Runtime: 124 mins
While Marathi and Hindi films have made Tamasha and Lavani the centre points of story-telling in the past (some notable ones being Pinjra, Sangte Aika, Ek Hota Vidhushak, Natarang, Tamasha - Hach Khel Udya Punha), not many (none, to my knowledge) have been brave enough to incorporate Tamasha as a narrative form of cinema. Director Sanjay Jadhav's ambitious attempt to use Tamasha as the form of story-telling in his film Tamasha Live is therefore creditable. The Marathi film releases July 15, 2022, in theatres.
This traditional form of Marathi theatre, often with song and dance and influenced by Indian art forms, draws from diverse traditions such as kaveli, ghazals, Kathak, dashavatara, lalit and kirtan widely performed by local or travelling theatre groups within the state of Maharashtra.
It is the narrative form used in Tamasha Live. And for this purpose Sanjay Jadhav has Siddharth Jadhav and Hemangi Kavi, the sutradhars (narrators), flit in and out, reciting, singing and dancing while the main leads do their best to flare-up the dramatic tempo.
While the 'dholki' is conspicuously low-key here, the much older 'sangeet bhari' tradition is given full thrust, as the sutradhars tell the story of two rival newscasters belonging to rival channels. They indulge in a 'tu-tu-main-main', indirectly haranguing on so-called-state-wide television, about an apparent suicide case of a pretty and impoverished dancer / wannabe actress named Bhakti (Ayushi Bhave Tilak).
Most of the elements of the plot here are borrowed from real life (remember the cases of Divya Bharti, Sushant Singh Rajput and Disha Salian?) and the media furore that these incidents brought in its wake.
The sutradhars introduce the incident in the opening itself and we see the young woman falling from the terrace of a high-rise and a young fledgling TV news reporter from Jan Haqq news, Shefali (Sonalee Kulkarni) who just happens to be on the spot, turn the obscure incident into her career-defining breakthrough moment - much to the disgruntlement of Ashwin (Sachit Patil) of Only Ashwin fame (a sort of Marathi news media's Arnab Goswami), the numero uno of primetime news until then.
After that, it's a free-fall into allegations, character assassinations, outright lies and half-truths being peddled on state-wide TV, with film stars, dance choreographers, activists, politicians and even the chief minister bearing the brunt of toxic innuendo (drug abuse, casting couch, rape, etc.) unleashed by the warring newscasters.
But while trying to balance the Tamasha elements and the visceral drama, Sanjay Jadhav literally loses the plot. The form employed here does nothing much to enhance the main plot line about the drama and deception or the behind-the-scenes of news and journalism, and that is the most disappointing aspect here.
While the Tamasha is performed with gusto using a varied genre of songs (20 in number) and a variety of costumes, the drama comes across as rather shrill and directionless.
The narrative tempo wilts and shrills up, as the choppy editing juxtaposes colourful sequences of recitation and dance with sheer adulterated noise.
The narrative doesn't feel organic or flow smoothly enough. The ludicrous nature of mainstream TV journalism is apparent here but it's neither a hard-hitting exposé nor a heart-touching one and neither does this narrative form allow it to be recognised as a spoof.
As an audience, you are bound to feel alienated from what transpires on screen. The flat, unimaginative sequences involving the newscasters, appear unadorned and unfinished.
The performances also lack depth.
The camerawork here is rather limiting in its scope and the helming seems more concerned with employing a unique form rather than telling a story with the appropriate gravitas.