Taish (2020) Review!!

Synopsis – Taish is a story of friendship and loss of innocence narrated in the format of intense thriller.

My Take – Very few first time filmmakers manage to leave an impression like Bejoy Nambiar did back in 2011 with Shaitaan, a black comedy crime thriller, which despite not going the distance at the box office, managed to rake in acclaim and a cult following for its direction, cinematography and performances from a then largely set of unfamiliar faces like Kalki Koechlin, Rajkummar Rao, Gulshan Devaiya, Shiv Panditt, Neil Bhoopalam, and Kirti Kulhari.

Though commercial success continues to elude him, with both his follow up starry affairs, David (2013) and Wazir (2016) also biting the dust, from a cinephile’s point of view, Nambiar has been continued to be looked upon as an exciting filmmaker with a hold over the craft. Hence I was excited for his next thriller right from its first look as it promised a four year return to his familiar zone of dark lumpy thrillers, following the shift in his last writing job, in the form of the breezy road trip comedy, Karwaan.

However, the biggest catch of his latest work is that it has been experimentally released on Zee5 both as a film as well as a six-episode series, with the series being longer (about 180 minutes) in comparison to the feature (143 minutes). An experiment which in my opinion is definitely worth a watch!

Sure, the film/series employs a formulaic story line centered on revenge, but, in his usual style, writer/director Nambiar cleverly mixes eccentric outrage and emotional turmoil to show us a world where everything feels pretty grey. This is the kind of compelling thriller which with its presence of continuous bloodshed would have ended up being no more than an exercise in gratuitous violence in lesser hands, but Nambiar is talented enough to manipulate his audience to think about his characters and feel their anguish along.

But the most interesting aspect of Nambiar‘s storytelling remains in the fact that no matter what medium you choose to see first, you will no doubt be left compelled to immediately start watching the next, and return to the world he has created.

Set in the U.K., the story follows Rohan Kalra (Jim Sarbh) and Sunny Lalwani (Pulkit Samrat), two childhood best friends, who sort of have done every crazy stuff together. Now with Krish (Ankur Rathee), Rohan’s younger brother, and his fiancée, Mahi (Zoa Morani), getting hitched at a scenic country estate, the two, along with Aarfa Khan (Kriti Kharbanda), Rohan’s live in girlfriend, look at this as an opportunity to catch up and let loose in the week long affair.

Meanwhile, in the dark grimy corners of South Hall London, Pali (Harshvardhan Rane), has declared war on his elder brother, Kuljinder (Abhimanyu Singh), following his coaxed wedding to Jahaan (Sanjeeda Sheikh), despite being aware of the fact that the both were madly in love. Hereby spitting the violent criminal family of moneylenders in two halves, with each segment grasping towards the other. However, everyone’s life takes a drastic turn when Rohan comes face to face with Kuljinder at the wedding, sparking a chain of violence which destroys anything and everyone it touches.

The film is about men, their rage, and how it brings about the end of all that is good. Sometimes these men live with their rage for years, letting it simmer and destroy their hearts and sometimes, it comes gushing out at the slightest provocation. The film tells an easy cause-and-effect story however adopts a method that cloaks the series/film with sophistication. And to do this, writer/director Nambiar keeps his story character-driven in nature.

Sure, there are many characters and the introductions and their relationship with each other takes some time getting used to. But writer/director Nambiar intricately fleshes out each ones, with the script maintaining a balance that everything shown ends up coming to a full circle when the amazingly simple and unpretentious climatic high-speed chase kicks in.

This is not a series/film that lets you relax for even a second. As even the lighter moments are infused with an arsenal potency, for example, the brilliant pre-wedding dinner sequence where Rohan’s father tries to bait Rohan’s Pakistani girlfriend, Arfa, into a complicated debate with subtle racism. The way the particular sequence builds up into a fireball of funny, feisty and fearless dialogue is a sign of mature and skilled writing.

Having said that, it is in the second half where the series/film switches gear into full speed, as every character is going through the repercussion of the crucial incident in the story. And every individual in the character pool is in a drastically different zone.

One of the highlights of writer/director Nambiar‘s eclectic career as a filmmaker is how he is drawn to the idea of revenge, be it in Shaitan, David or Wazir. Here, too, he touches upon the idea of how a single mistake can kick start mayhem at the drop of a hat. But along with that it is also a fascinating tale about male friendships and the crisis of masculinity, which only knows the taste of blood as the method to heal broken hearts.

Writers Anjali Nair, Kartik R. Iyer and Nicola Louise Taylor along with Nambiar have built an intriguing world. And in my opinion, the six-episode format works better for this story than that of a single film. The episodic structure allows writer/director Nambiar‘s storytelling to breathe and devotes time to the various characters, who are struggling with their own demons, even as they bay for blood.

Unfortunately, the film does suffer from some faults, which require a certain suspension of disbelief to belief to work. For example, the whole segment of the engineered jail sentence to carry out murder, only to be bailed out earlier than the job was just too farfetched. Also we never get much into dissecting Pali’s agony which apparently rose from a call taken by his sister in law, Sanobar, who never provides any rationalization or objective for her actions.

However, as I mentioned above, the series/film is mostly focused on the characters, and thankfully writer/director Nambiar manages to squeeze out the best from his set of underrated actors. Jim Sarbh, who usually plays the devious one from the group gets to play the most eccentric one for a change, and manages to realistically depict the shift in Rohan’s nature in an affecting way. While

Pulkit Samrat is handed the least well-rounded character of the leads, he manages to fantastically reflect what a versatile and effortless he is. Kriti Kharbanda and Sanjeeda Sheikh are both excellent in their limited screen time, and manage to excel efficiently, while sharing superb chemistry with their on screen leads.

But regardless of the viciousness of his role, this one is a showcase of Harshwardhan Rane‘s skill and on-screen persona. Despite being a popular face in Telugu cinema, Rane has struggled to break it into the Hindi commercial zone, but with this venture he is sure to turn the tide around. Here, Rane gets into the skin of his character smoothly, and is able to turn his rage into a mood conscientiously in the film. As a goon from the bylines of Southall, his Punjabi descent accent is applaud-worthy, far from the Punjabi toned Bollywood films. His punches, like his performance, land on right spots.

In supporting roles, Saurabh Sachdeva, Abhimanyu Singh, Saloni Batra, Zoa Morani, Armaan Khera and Ankur Rathee too offer excellent performances. On the whole, ‘Taish’ is a compelling thriller which despite a familiar plot, stylishly thrills and engages in equal measure.

Directed – Bejoy Nambiar

Starring – Jim Sarbh, Harshvardhan Rane, Pulkit Samrat

Rated – NR

Run Time – 143 minutes

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