Love is a currency that may never go out of style in Bollywood films. But just when you are about to write them off as been-there-seen-that relationship dramas, director Anurag Kashyap throws us a delightful curveball of a film.
Manmarziyaan deconstructs the established norms of relationship drama centred around a feisty woman being the object of desire and affection of two men.
There are three endearing central characters in Manmarziyaan.
For ease of remembering let’s call Robbie (Abhishek Bachchan) the portrait of calm composure/steely resolve; DJ Vicky (Vicky Kaushal), the cool cat/confused man-child; and Rumi (Taapsee Pannu), the crazy/reckless in love.
Manmarziyaan is what you get when these three gorgeously flawed souls, with a penchant for self-destruction, entangle their lives in a series of impulsive decisions. Rumi, who is in love with commitment-phobic, flaky Vicky, crumbles under pressure from her conservative Sikh parents to marry in an arranged marriage set up.
Enter the much-older, staid husband material Robbie, who doesn’t understandably sweep her off her feet. Their relationship doesn’t begin on an ideal note, but the rocky edges are smoothened pretty quickly.
But what makes Manmarziyaan stand out is its ability to tackle prickly topics such as marital infidelity and carnal urges without judgement. It approaches love, lies and lust in all its rip-roaringly frustrating glory. This unorthodox love story is a revelation of sorts amid Hindi films that gets its steam from virginal, utopian and youthful love stories.
Manmarziyaan is set in Punjab’s middle-class milieu and Kashyap does a stand-up job of showcasing Rumi’s ordinary world. The principal characters in Manmarziyaan are flawed, but they wear their eccentricities like a badge of honour.
Pannu, who’s becoming a force to reckon with in Bollywood, immerses herself as the redhead Rumi. She’s fickle and selfish, but you can’t help but root for Rumi and you owe that success to Pannu’s command over her role.
Kaushal, as an aspiring and edgy musician, is lush as the fractured, wounded lover. Bachchan, through his sturdy performance after a two-year self-imposed sabbatical, holds the story together. He’s back with the proverbial bang.
It’s these actors and their collective grasp over their layered roles that make this romantic drama rock.
It’s a narrative that’s predictable as you invariably guess who will win Rumi’s affection, but director Kashyap finds a novel way to package it. There’s no unnecessary melodrama, tears or bloody fist-fights among lovers and their patriarchal families. It’s refreshingly mature and grown-up as the good-looking trio navigate the treacherous world of lust-laced love. Music composer Amit Trivedi’s songs are aptly placed and reflect the troubled, schizophrenic nature of what the heart and mind wants.
Manmarziyaan is a definite departure for Kashyap who’s known for his dark, dysfunctional gangster thrillers.
While a part of you may wonder if Kashyap and his worthy actors played it safe in the climax by re-enforcing the parents-know-best-for-kids narrative, it isn’t a deal breaker. You are invested in their lives, warts and all. Put a ring on Manmarziyaan, you won’t regret that choice.
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Director: Anurag Kashyap
Cast: Taapsee Pannu, Vicky Kaushal and Abhishek Bachchan
Stars: 4 out of 5