By Subhash K Jha
Starring Anil Kapoor, Akshay Kumar, Kareena Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan
Directed by Vijay Krishna Acharya
Rating: ** ½
The threesome on the way to god-knows-where need to escape from the cops. They get into blonde wigs and tight 'American' costumes and turn into item dancers for a Hollywood project called Holy Widows.
Holy shit! Tashan is so full of the milk of human zaniness that you feel it may at any moment topple over under the weight of its own cleverness.
If the bizarre brew of the cunning and the cool holds togther it's mainly because of Akshay Kumar and Kareena Kapoor who a create a kaleidoscopic chemistry of crime and no punishment.
There's an ingrained energy in the proceedings, a ravishing rush of adrenaline and a whoosh of wunder-winks as though the man at the helm has a secret chuckle and a closet giggle underscoring every exaggerated swagger and every italicized moment in this story of four seemingly unscrupulous gold-diggers.
Three of them redeem themselves by the end of the film. As for the fourth, the villain played with feverish flatulent flamboyance by Anil Kapoor, you can't win 'em all.
Tashan is a winner in unexpected ways. First-time director Vijay Krishna Acharya spears the content to a dashboard that dashes all over the place.
Most of Tashan is a zany kookie ribald and riveting road movie about a naïve wannabe criminal Bachchan Pandey (Akshay Kumar), an English tutor named...er, Jimmy Cliff (Saif) trapped into a heist by a crimelord who wants to learn angrezi in haste, and an amoral pouty super-sculpted seductress Pooja (Kareena) who plays up the two men against one another and often breaks into steamy songs and provocative dances that suggest no link between the tale of the UP bhayya, angrezi masterji and the kanpuri coquette and the world that cultivates such freaked-out misfits.
Crime capers and road movies about characters who often get into outlandish costumes and foreign wigs at laconic locales have become a favourite at Yashraj.
Stories of small towners dreaming big have come and grown. Bunty Aur Babli worked. Jhoom Barabaar Jhoom did not. Tashan surreptitiously slips into the workable stratosphere, thanks to its super-motorized manoeuvres that take the plot into an area of utter originality.
Love or loath it, you've never seen a Hindi film like Tashan before.
Outrageous, over-the-top, opulent and audacious the debutant director turns formulistic conventions inside-out upside-down.
He pummels and tramples on the age-old material and emerges with images imprints and insignia that remind us that the global cinematic journey from Manmohan Desai and David Dhawan to Quentin Tarantino and Oliver Stone has come a full circle.
Tashan constructs a fool's paradise of caper- wanderers in search of that pot of gold at the end of the studio-generated rainbow.
The splash of colours (art director Sukant Panigrahy and DOP Anaynanka Bose have as much fun with the art décor and locations as two kids doing water colour in kindergarten) and the swirl of delightfully and daring caper-adventures as the greasy characters travel across Greece and Hindustan in search of anything but peace, is quite a gravity-challenging achievement.
The actors seem to be having loads of fun. Whether we share it or not, is entirely our look-out. If the truth be told the only one who seems to catch hold of the director's sur in totality is Akshay Kumar.
I'm not very sure why Kareena needed to re-sculpt her body to play the small-time schemer (was she playing Babli in search of a Bunty?) or the relevance of Saif Ali Khan's dropping moustache (is he a secret member of Ming dynasty?).
In fact Saif's relevance to the film escapes me. He rushes in as though to work over-time after Race.
He seems to have no idea of the rhythm and sur required for this extravagant take-off on Big Bad Bollywood's meanest conventions, and his set-expressions are more annoying than illuminating.
Anil Kapoor's Bhaiyyaji with his craving to master English is a monstrous aberration from the past. A mogambo from the stylized den in Mr India let loose in the city of the prowl to create a free-funded havoc.
Akshay steals the show in almost every frame.
Watch him in that tricky boat sequence with Kareena in Allahabad (yes we're taken from Uttar Pradesh to Greece to Rajasthan to Leh in this jerky joyride from hear to eternity-gritty) where he gets to know she's is his teenaged sweetheart from the town that was as frozen as the lakes of Leh and Greece.
Akshay takes this potentially trite and dangerously co-incidental sequence from level to level with a fluency that speaks volumes for his growth as an actor and his reverence for cinematic conventions.
You wish the director Vijay Krishna Acharya had shown some restrain in the action scenes.
The trouble is Tashan doesn't know where to stop. The situations get out of hand and dialogues like chadhi-sukhana and aurat ki ganji make you wince with their wonky witticism.
You can't blame Acharya for losing control. After a few reels of non-stop amorality the narration acquires its own volition.
It's the madness of the moment capturing the awkward avarice of a generation that believes money makes the world go round....or is it wrong?.... that echoes the perverse passion-play of Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers.
Expertly assembled and skilfully knitted together the episodes hold together mainly because the warm sunshine of the outdoors complements the bronzed and over-baked ambitions of the characters.
Sometimes the stench of immorality gets overbearing. That's when Kareena's overpowering beauty comes in. She's partly Meryl Streep, partly Juliette Binoche.
What the film is, becomes harder to pinpoint. Just go with the four.