Tadap Sticks Close To Its Original, RX 100, But Doesn’t Find Its Footing, Film Companion

Director: Milan Luthria
Writer: Rajat Arora
Cast: Tara Sutaria, Kumud Mishra, Ahan Shetty, Saurabh Shukla
Cinematographer: Ragul Dharuman
Editor: Rajesh Pandey

Ishana in Tadap is the less interesting brother of Kabir Singh. Unlike Kabir, he doesn’t bulldoze a woman into romance – actually it’s the opposite, she makes the first move. But just like Kabir, he becomes unhinged when the love story splinters. He becomes a testosterone-fueled Devdas, drinking, destroying property, breaking bones and later, forcibly attempting to make his partner stay with him. Obviously, Ishana hasn’t got the memo on consent. He also runs a movie theatre, which also allows him to project a photo of the woman he has lost on a big screen and then weep abjectly. It’s as dreary as it sounds.

Like Kabir Singh, Tadap is a remake of a successful Telugu film. Released in 2018, RX 100 is a twisted, misogynistic take on female desire. Writer-director Ajay Bhupathi, and dialogue writer Tajuddin Syed, create a female character who lives life on her own decidedly nasty terms but is then punished for it. The film, inspired by true life events, asks us to feel the pain of a man whose love is so consuming that his aggression is justified – so it’s okay for him to tie a woman to her bed or almost strangle her by hoisting her up into the air. Because she deserves it.

 

Despite the vile gender politics, RX 100 is consistently watchable. Ajay doesn’t try to dilute what his heroine does. So when Indu first sees Shiva, he is bare-chested and she and the camera linger on his bare torso. Director Milan Luthria, who has adapted the film from a script by frequent writing partner Rajat Arora, varnishes the relationship. Ramisa in Tadap is very much the angelic if slightly entitled rich girl who flirts with Ishana. In RX 100, the lead, played by Kartikeya Gummakonda, is a sexually naïve country bumpkin who must be taught to kiss. But Tadap is the launch vehicle for a star son, Ahan Shetty, which means that even a chhota shehar ka ladka must have a degree of swag. The screenplay creates room for him to do it all, including race through a quarry during blasts and show off slick dance moves at a rave.

Milan, maker of films like The Dirty Picture and Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai, has a flair for making pulpy, old-school movies – the kind in which characters don’t speak to each other, they participate in dialogue baazi, and the emotions are always straining to be larger than life. In one scene, Ishana says: Mohabbat mazhab ho gayi hai mera. In another, a bad cop tells him: Teri pyaar ki batti toh main lal karoonga. And this line is the clincher – a kindly aunty who runs a coffee shop advises Ishana to give up because, ‘Auraat kab meherbaan ho, kab mazaak bana de, koi nahi janta.’ Really? It’s almost 2022. Why is Hindi cinema propagating such nonsense?

But the worst sin in my book isn’t bad politics. It’s dullness. And that is what Tadap’s biggest problem is. Despite hewing closely to the original, the film doesn’t find its footing. Perhaps because it places too much of a burden on its leads – Ahan and Tara Sutaria. Ahan has a solid screen presence. He pulls off the action with ease. Tara looks lovely. But the characters in Tadap have dual personalities. The scenes in the film, especially during the climax, needed actors capable of much more expression and precision.

Also read: Tadap Burnishes The Sexism Of RX 100, Its Source Material, With Scale And Silly Similes

The actors are also hobbled by the generic writing. All we know about Ishana is that he is the ‘local darling’ of Mussoorie, where the film is set. He is described as ‘bahut hi loyal aur saaf dil ka.’ Ramisa is even more basic – she’s studying in London and likes to take pictures. She also introduces Ishana to smoking – yes, this is that sort of film in which smoking is a sign of moral character – for women only of course.

Saurabh Shukla and Kumud Mishra, playing father figure and father, bring some heft. And the real star is Pritam’s music – Milan works the melodies hard to infuse ache and sweep into the narrative.

But Tadap mostly hovers around tedious. The film is playing at a theatre near you. Don’t forget to wear a mask.

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