Tashan and the genesis of 'desi' Bollywood: It's a pity that this ode to kitschy Hindi films didn't get its due

Gautam Chintamani

Apr 25, 2018 13:52:26 IST

About a decade ago, the release of Vijay Krishna Acharya’s Tashan was a highly anticipated event and many were convinced that the film would be a runaway success, thanks to the pre-release buzz it had managed to generate.

One of the reasons for the interest in Tashan was, of course, the production house Yash Raj FIlms, and the cast that was front-lined by Akshay Kumar — who was on roll with hits such as Welcome (2007), Bhool Bhulaiyaa (2007), Heyy Babyy (2007), Namastey London (2007) — along with Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor and Anil Kapoor, who was just a few months away from being a globally recognised name post-Slumdog Millionaire.

Tashan and the genesis of desi Bollywood: Its a pity that this ode to kitschy Hindi films didnt get its due

Akshay Kumar and Saif Ali Khan in Tashan.

But there was something more that made Tashan stand-out right at the onset. This was perhaps the very first time that popular Hindi cinema had designed a project that would not only be an ode to typically kitschy hindi films, but also create a sub-genre: Desi Bollywood.

Tashan was unmistakably a marquee project that aimed to entice the front-bench audience while catering to the upwardly mobile multiplex audiences at the same time. Acharya was known for his dialogues for Dhoom (2004) and Pyar Ke Side Effects (2006), which were two very different films from a genre point of view, and having studied in New Delhi where he also forayed into theatre, he was quite comfortable in merging two very diverse styles.

In Tashan, the names of the characters (Anil Kapoor as Lakhan ‘Bhaiyyaji’ Singh Ballebaaz, Akshay Kumar as Bachchan Pandey), the set-pieces (the climax has Bhaiyyaji coming out on a cycle-rickshaw in the middle of a shootout), the dialogues, as well the opening credits that prefixed ‘the’ to each actor’s name, were all what could one label ‘filmy.’ The manner in which Acharya blended the typical old school Hindi films of the 1980s with high-production values was very similar to what a Quentin Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez were attempting with From Dusk to Dawn (1996).

Had Tashan not missed the mark at the box office, perhaps Dabangg (2009) might not have been credited with being the film that ushered in the re-entry kitschy Bollywood. Since Dabangg, there has been a marked increase in the sub-genre and every male star worth his salt has a film of this nature.

A still from Tashan.

In the last decade films like Singham (2011), Rowdy Rathore (2012), Besharam (2013), Bullett Raja (2013), R…Rajkumar (2013), Gundaay (2014), Dilwale (2015) and Raees (2017) have all tried to recreate the same vibe that a Tashan or Dabangg championed. Even Kangana Ranaut tried going down this path with Revolver Rani (2014).

With the right ingredients, cast and good music — there's a big question mark about why Tashan failed to be a success at the box office.

Unlike Dabangg, a film that decided to keep Chulbul Pandey’s idiosyncrasies as the fulcrum of the narrative, Tashan perhaps spread itself a tad too thin. This could be one of the reason's for its failure at the box office. The basic plot — Jimmy Cliff (Saif Ali Khan) and Pooja (Kareena Kapoor) run off with money that belongs to gangster, Lakhan ‘Bhaiyyaji’ Singh Ballebaaz, who then hires Bachchan Pandey to retrieve the stash — could have been better had it done away with Jimmy's character.

Had Tashan revolved around just Bachchan Pandey and Bhaiyyaji it would have been far more entertaining as both Akshay Kumar and Anil Kapoor seemed tailor-made for such a script. Kumar’s introduction scene, where he is on a scooter dressed as Raavan trying to make it to the Ram Leela performance on time, is unparalleled. So is Kapoor’s English-obsessed Baiyyaji. With Saif and Kareena as part of the cast too, the gap between 'masala entertainers' and 'multiplex content' could have been bridged, had the film played its cards right.

Looking back, had Tashan been a success, there is little doubt that it would have been considered a milestone.

Updated Date: Apr 25, 2018 14:05:29 IST