The trailer of Imtiaz Ali’s new movie Tamasha fleetingly gives us a glimpse of a glum Ranbir Kapoor staring out from his window seat in a train. It gives us a clue about the film's narrative, which involves a literal and metaphorical journey that is undertaken by key characters. It is certainly not the first time Ali has resorted to this device, and also not the first time he has used the train as a metaphor. “Window Seat was the working title for Tamasha. For Jab We Met, the working title was Train,” Ali said.
In Jab We Met (2007) a love story blossoms inside a train compartment where two strangers meet. In Love Aaj Kal (2009), the train scene separates lovers. When asked about the recurring motif, Ali said, “There’s nothing that I do consciously to make all my films similar, but my stories go through my personal interest and translating them on screen is dependent on my personal capacity. Common elements are bound to creep in.”
It appears to be a formula Ali has patented. As with some of Ali’s previous films, Jab We Met and Love Aaj Kal, Tamasha could be viewed through the same lens. A young couple’s journey towards each other where the “train sequence” comes at an important juncture — it will help them decide whether to get on-board or disembark. In fact, it wouldn’t be too off-the-mark to suggest that Tamasha is the third piece in Ali’s love express trilogy. First they meet (Jab We Met), then they fall in love (Love Aaj Kal) and then it becomes a celebratory show (Tamasha).
All of Ali’s films have featured characters traveling someplace. A journey is integral to the plot. His debut, Socha Na Tha (2004), had the lead pair embark on a bus trip to Goa in pursuit of different goals, but they end up falling for each other anyway. Rockstar (2011) features a key scene in which Jordan (Ranbir Kapoor) is returning to Delhi in a bus after attending the wedding of his beloved Heer (Nargis Fakhri). The journey has a cathartic effect on him as he realises that he has lost the woman he loved forever. Highway (2014) is an unusual kidnapping drama based entirely on a nightmarish trip to nowhere.
On November 22, as part of a promotional campaign for Tamasha, Ali and his lead actors, Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone, decided to take a train to Delhi from Mumbai. “Subconsciously, I am trying to bring travel as a simile to the journey of life,” Ali said.