It's one of those films you wanted to like. But Dekh Tamasha Dekh turns out to be a film that has the right intentions, but is let down by slapdash execution.
Take the premise, set in '90s Mumbai, for instance. A dead man leads to two extremist religious groups fighting over whether he was Hindu or Muslim. Both groups want the dead person, so they lay the body to rest as per their customs. There are incendiary leaders on both sides raking this up as a major issue. Of course, the fact that the person died as he was crushed under a politician’s hoarding, is symbolic.
Within the courtroom, a scene that could have been funny goes on and on, as the judge keeps asking for "saboot" (proof) about the dead man. The Hindu group insists he was Kishan; the Muslim group calls him Hamid. They argue about his childhood, whether a lake that has dried can be referred to as a lake, and so on. Had it been told interestingly, this portion could have made a biting comment on our legal proceedings.
This brawl, that has reached the courtroom, is happening in a Mumbai locality that is prone to riots every few years. The police should stay out of it, advices the constable to his newly-appointed efficient boss (Vinay Jain).
The political leaders try milking this situation with a party leader organizing a “Vijay yatra” to celebrate the court’s orders. The political party leader decides to route the yatra right thought the Muslim residential community. The new cop tries stopping this attempt to create riots, but seems helpless. On the other hand, a Muslim leader is giving inflammatory speeches, taking advantage of the court’s orders.
As is always the case, it is the common people that suffer the most during the resultant riots. A chilling scene, where we see the riots from a van’s window, shows gangs of people murdering and setting homes on fire.
Two lovers from different communities—Prashant and Shabbo— attempt to elope during the riots. The film shows more murders, making one wonder about the point of it all. You have a scene with an old man without his hearing aids, unable to hear his assistant brutally being murdered right outside his door. And after that, you never hear this character react on that fateful incident.
Scenes continue without editing. Take the inflammatory speech scene by a religious leader—you’re relived when a character gets up to protest, because otherwise, we were watching the speech as if in real time. The finale is bizarre and takes place abruptly without any justification.
On the brighter side, there are some scenes that do make you crack up. Like the one where the newspaper-owning businessman (Satish Kaushik) celebrates his birthday by distributing biryani, but not before the hungry junta wishes him several times over. His insistence on mentioning that his new dog is “imported” and that Indian dogs can’t be trained is also hilarious.
The performances are earnest and heartfelt but let down by the film itself. The story’s developments are often unexplained and characters have a transformation without warning. Technically, the film has a dated look and feel.
Director Feroz Abbas Khan (Gandhi, My Father), is a theatre veteran having directed plays like Tumhari Amrita and Salesman Ramlal. It was a real-life incident that inspired him to make Dekh Tamasha Dekh. One wonders how such a prolific storyteller got lost here.
Neither a biting enough political satire, nor a moving drama— Dekh Tamasha Dekh hangs precariously in-between. You understand the intention, you even connect with a few scenes, but overall the film is dismal. Avoidable.
Rating: One and a half stars