'Taish' Review: Nambiar’s technical mastery and Rane’s intensity make it an unforgettable experience

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

By Murtaza Ali Khan

By choosing to release Taish simultaneously as a film as well as a six episode series, Bejoy Nambiar has mounted an interesting storytelling experiment. Film and series are of course two very different mediums and both have their own strengths and weaknesses. A story which works in one medium may not work in the other and vice versa. But, before we analyze the two versions of Taish, let’s first try and put the storyline into perspective. Set in the UK, Taish revolves around a family of gangsters and a family of doctors. The two worlds clash amidst a wedding and all hell breaks loose. It’s essentially a tale of friendship, betrayal, love, and revenge. Taish stars Harshvardhan Rane, Pulkit Samrat, Sanjeeda Shaikh, Kriti Kharbanda, Jim Sarbh, Abhimanyu Singh, Saurabh Sachdeva, Saloni Batra, Zoa Morani, Ankur Rathee, and Ikhlaque Khan in pivotal roles.

People look up to Hollywood when it comes to depiction of raw and gritty action. But what Bejoy Nambiar achieves in Taish is no mean feat. We are treated with some brilliant moments of action, whether one speaks of combat or chase sequences. And Taish is not just about raw and gritty action, for it also offers intense and deeply passionate moments of romance. The brilliant editing, trippy soundscape, and breathtaking cinematography elevate Taish above anything seen in the Indian entertainment space in the recent years. The single most amazing thing about Taish is that it starts on a moment of high intensity and Nambiar is able to maintain the level of intensity for the most part. Of course, there are many tender moments in between, but it does live up to its title which basically translates to rage and passion.

When the two-time Oscar-winning director Ang Lee cast Tony Chiu-Wai Leung for the part of Mr. Yee (a special agent and recruiter of the puppet government set up by the Japanese occupation in China) for his film Lust, Caution (2007), he made the actor study the performances of Marlon Brando in Last Tango in Paris (1972), Humphrey Bogart in In a Lonely Place (1950) and Richard Burton in Equus (1977), in order to give him a sense of wounded masculinity, which Lee thought was right characterization for the role of Mr. Yee. Now, their masculinity can be described as wounded because among other things there is a sense of self-destructive drive in all these characters. For example, the widower character Paul played by Brando in Last Tango in Paris enters an abusive relationship with a young girl while he is still mourning his wife's recent suicide. Bogart’s temperamental screenwriter character in In a Lonely Place, Dixon Steele, a murder suspect, falls in love with a neighbor while on the verge of a breakdown. Now, I think we can safely add Harshvardhan Rane’s gangster character Pali Brar from Taish to the above list. Pali’s self-destructive drive is a result of losing out the love of his life to his own elder brother who is like a father to him.

Palli is a powerhouse of a character and Rane immortalizes it by delivering the best performance of his career thus far. It's such a treat to see a non-Punjabi actor demonstrate such command over the Eastern Punjabi dialect. Rane showed a similar command over Punjabi in J.P. Dutta's Paltan also but it mostly went unnoticed. Fortunately for Rane, it didn’t escape Nambiar’s attention. Rane's chemistry with Sanjeeda Shaikh in Taish is absolutely riveting to watch and savor. Pulkit Samrat manages to show a different side to him in Taish. In a couple of scenes with Rane, he is even able to hold his own. Jim Sarbh is solid as ever. Some of the scenes that he shares with Pulkit and Kriti are really intense. Also, Saurabh Sachdeva, Abhimanyu Singh, Ikhlaque Khan, Saloni Batra, and Bikramjit Gurm deserve special mention for their memorable performances.

The film version of Taish runs at 143 minutes. On the other hand, the total runtime of the series is 178 minutes. Both versions are streaming on ZEE5. While the former unfolds in a linear fashion, the latter follows a nonlinear narrative. After finishing both the versions (series followed by film), I decided to approach the director with a basic question. I asked, “Which of the two versions do you personally prefer, Bejoy, and why?” And I got a very interesting response. “It’s a tough question, Murtaza. Each version has its own pros and cons and for me it’s extremely difficult to choose one over the other,” Nambiar replied. So, which of the two versions is superior, according to me? Well, that simple depends on whether you prefer to watch it in a single seating or want to conveniently watch just one episode at a time. Perhaps, the film version can be approached as the theatrical cut and the series as the director’s cut. Nambiar’s films are always technically brilliant and one Hollywood filmmaker that he can be compared with is Michael Mann. Just like Mann, Nambiar has always been considered a master of style. But his films have always been accused of lacking substance. With Taish, however, he seems to have successfully married style with equal parts of substance.

A version of this article was first published in The Daily Guardian.

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