A still from <i>Taish.</i>

Review: All Style and No Substance Makes ‘Taish’ a Dull Watch

Bejoy Nambiar’s Taish wants to be too many things and becomes nothing.

Movie Reviews
4 min read

All Style and No Substance Makes ‘Taish’ a Dull Watch

Taish takes you to the world of the rich and successful, the NRI experience laced with dark, sinister secrets and morally ambiguous relationships. Directed by Bejoy Nambiar and written by him along with Anjali Nair, Kartik Iyer and Gunjit Chopra, one wonders if either knows the world attempting to be created here. Beautiful production design, scenic European locations and consistently heavy music can only offer so much. Even the Punjabi dialogues, poetic and music to my ears, can’t save the dullness.

Taish shows us the two kinds of quintessential Punjabi families in England - the Southall gangsters who speak theth Punjabi, where the women always cover their heads and wear salwar kameez while the men of the house engage in violent and criminal activities and the other is the “refined” lot that exclusively speaks English, doctors and lawyers with historic wealth, liberated women with drinks in their hands and a choice in the matter of whom they go to bed with, with people who rarely go by their real names anyway.

A still from <i>Taish.</i>
A still from Taish.
(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

It’s always Jaz for Jaspreet or Sunny for Surinder. Taish wants to shake the status quo and aim for an explosion when these two worlds collide, but fails. The story also dances around the North Indian style of patriarchy and toxic masculinity, honour and brotherhood before quickly moving on. The show (or movie) starts of a little like the sanitised desi cousin of Cruel Intentions and Call Me By Your Name and soon becomes more like a lukewarm Festen and This Is Where I Leave You, eventually becoming a half hearted revenge tragedy.

Nambiar tries hard to recreate the magic of Shaitan, which dealt with complex family dynamics, eccentric friendships and damaged, traumatic realties of the heart and romance beautifully. Taish is barely a shadow of that, if at all. It wants to be too many things and becomes nothing.

An atmosphere of intensity, fear and suspense is the desired effect and in what could have been an otherwise interesting story, the narrative structure and design of the scenes and script falls flat. The show tastes like the dish of an amateur chef, with all the ingredients and masalas for a good drama at hand in his kitchen but little skill in handling them is exhibited, adding too much oil or perhaps too little garlic or chilli. The script is disjointed and makes a khichdi of its non linear narrative structure, something that is otherwise very effective when done well. With Nambiar’s experience, this comes as a slight shock.

Jim Sarbh does what Jim Sarbh does best - play different versions of the same complexed privileged rich Delhi or London boy, this time as Rohan Kalra, our protagonist. Pulkit Samrat as Sunny, his best friend, is also a glacial impression of what a Delhi / Punjabi boy could be. It is Harshvardhan Rane that is the champion of the show. He, as a half Maharashtrian and half Telugu actor who grew up in Gwalior, is the most Punjabi gangster I ever saw. One wouldn’t believe he isn’t speaking his mother tongue. He carries his flimsily written storyline with convincing and captivating energy. The other characters contribute little to nothing.

A still from <i>Taish.</i>
A still from Taish.
(Photo Courtesy: YouTube)

As a half Punjabi who grew up in Delhi, I can vouch for the accuracy of the generalisations used in good measure but therein lies the problem. The boys remain any other group of laundas interested in alcohol, women and joking around. The actors do, however, their best with whatever little they have but the writing just doesn’t offer space for the characters to be explored and understood. They remain wafer thin, one dimensional caricatures.

The complexity and tragedy Taish wants to deliver requires a certain pace, patience and vulnerability, which the script forgets. The action in each scene progresses abruptly and things go from 0 to a 100 with no fluidity and so randomly that one just checks out.

The story follows a family coming together for a grand wedding when the revelation of a past trauma between Rohan and one of the guests leads to a series of unfortunate events, leading the characters to death, despair, heartbreak and even jail. The clothes in the show are like the advertisement for a garment brand, and the constant dance numbers true to Bollywood. Even the direction employs some interesting approaches, taking inspiration from Hong Kong and Japanese action movies where the action is felt by the camera and in turn the audience, both of which remain static in most English action movies, along with flash photography, breaking of the fourth wall in no dialogue scenes to echo haunting pain, but none of this can salvage this mess. It is all style and no substance. The direction is neither pleasing nor engaging.

There are plenty of opportunities for conflict, like that between Rohan Kalra and his father because of his relationship with a Pakistani Muslim girl or Krish and his fiancé in light of her cheating amongst many others, that go unexplored. They are introduced and resolved with forgettable ease and have no consequence on the story. The layers of the onion are not peeled back at all, allowing no emotional investment. When a fairly prominent character dies on screen and you yawn, that is a bad sign.

Taish remains an un-mined mountain, which crushes under the weight of its own identity crisis. To release it as a film and TV show both is an interesting and unique choice, offering two very varied viewing experiences but unfortunately, neither will be rewarding.

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