To their credit, Yashraj, the mega studio lead by Yash Chopra, has an enviable reputation for having pulled off five of the ten biggest Hindi box office blockbusters over the last decade. With Tashan, however, the highflying studio takes a headfirst tumble. If Dhoom were pumped with unsavory steroids, the unnatural result would be Tashan. In the process of hatching this over-orchestrated turkey, Tashan also painfully highlights everything that is wrong with modern Hindi filmmaking.15e0ac7f80a4208295011561a5eedb3e-2

Yes, it’s true. With something like eight successive moneymaking movies in a row, Akshay Kumar is, at least for now, the darling of the masses. And yes, after recently agreeing to a paycheck of about $11 million for an upcoming Priyadarshan entry, Kumar is now the highest paid actor not only in India but all of Asia. Kumar has near-universal appeal and natural screen presence. But even Kumar is weighed down here. Along with Kumar, Kareena Kapoor (Jab We Met), Saif Ali Khan (Race), and Anil Kapoor (Partner) are all bouncing back from huge recent box office hits. Why, oh why, can’t Tashan pass the smell test?

Consider the story: A cutting edge exercise in contrived Crayola-drawn plot by first time director Acharya (who took writing credits for Dhoom, Dhoom 2, andGuru) follows a country bumpkin (Kumar) who is hired by an ill-tempered mob boss (A. Kapoor) to track down a curvy runaway couple (Khan and K. Kapoor) who elope with loot belonging to the mob. As director, Acharya-the-writer struggles like a flounder out of agua. Certain plot angles and even some stunts appear borrowed from Acharya’s previous writings (the aforementioned Dhoomfranchise). Sets that should shine and sparkle in a mega-budget showcase come across as tired and little-used back lots at Yashraj’s sprawling suburban Mumbai studios.

Consider the chemistry: A cardinal rule of casting states that off-screen couples who make only lukewarm tabloid fodder—like Khan and Kareena Kapoor—will generate equally tepid, ho-hum interest at the megaplex. Khan and K. Kapoor’s ultra mod, one-toothbrush current coexistence, alas, has been so minutely traced head to tattoo 24/7 by satellite channels that onscreen there is little new emotional territory for them to explore.

The loss of face will be brushed off and the diminished return on shareholder equity, however, will be relatively small given Yashraj’s commanding market share. As a trophy consolation, Yashraj scored a huge international film coup by agreeing to partner with Disney Studios for Roadside Romeo, a comedy featuring Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor set to be released Diwali 2008.

For the time being, when hapless Tashan ends, there is only stunned silence. You just paid 10 bucks to witness this crime against humanity and didn’t even get to peek at the new tattoo of Kareena Kapoor’s nickname that Khan sports somewhere on his body. At least that would have brought a couple of two-eared viewers out of their slumber. Pack the antacid. Better yet, unpack the antacid and give this albatross a wide berth.

Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee.

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