Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Taapsee Pannu, Vicky Kaushal
Director: Anurag Kashyap
Two girls are break dancing on a foot over-bridge overlooking a busy road in Amritsar. They dance past an anxious woman torn in between her lover and husband. It’s difficult to understand whether she is mourning her decision to get married, or she is actually looking forward to happy times. Actually, uncertainty of the situation is the hallmark of this Anurag Kashyap film which takes us beyond usual moral values and shows us how dark could our psyche be from inside.
When London-based banker Robbie (Abhishek Bachchan) decides to marry audacious former hockey player Rumi (Taapsee Pannu), he is probably in search of a partner who could challenge his composure. He knows about Rumi’s aspiring DJ boyfriend Vicky (Vicky Kaushal), but something provokes him to take a chance. This might be love at first sight, but this is also a dark territory where you won’t be able to differentiate between ego trip and genuine affection. It’s also rare for a small town where reputation precedes phone calls.
Anurag’s understanding of a social milieu is directly proportional to his characters’ anger and their indulgence in various forms of violence. On this front, he is surprisingly mild this time. In one of his most conventional films, you’ll find people making fun of their own choices during tense moments. For example, Vicky’s father laughs off his son’s inability to make a decision when, probably for the first time in his life, the guy is about to reach a conclusion.
Not only this, relatives and neighbours are casual about a girl going out with a boy. All they want for her is to settle down. They treat an affair like just another event in the day. It’s debatable whether the society would actually behave similarly in real life.
Vicky and Taapsee set the tone in the very beginning by calling their attachment ‘fyaar’. They believe ‘fyaar’ is like an emotional fever that needs treatment at regular intervals. A smitten in love Taapsee, at one point in the film, casually mentions how she felt bad when she had to go for an abortion without Vicky. The indifference in her tone is concerning, but more than anything, it’s Anurag’s sharp comment on changing moral values. Such moments make Manmarziyaan different from films like Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. Vicky and Taapsee never hide behind exotic locales or elaborate functions. They are right there, in your face.
Taapsee doesn’t ditch her usual clothes. Her defiance is a byproduct of assurance that her family provides. She is cynical, impressionable and demanding. The only time she seems to be in some kind of dilemma is when she realises that she isn’t the focus of Robbie’s attention. It rattles her and in her indecisiveness, she becomes even more vulnerable.
When a weed snorting Vicky Kaushal jumps roofs to meet her girlfriend with Amit Trivedi’s peppy tunes in the background, he makes you laugh. A hotheaded Punjabi boy without any plan in place, he oscillates between heart and mind, and loses on both fronts. However, a strong sense of rejection keeps him from giving up. Borderline manipulative, he is loud yet charming. It’s a transformation of sorts for Vicky who had stunned us with inner channeling of violence in Raman Raghav 2.0.
Taapsee’s unapologetic and bizarrely vacillating Rumi walks the razor edge. She shouldn’t turn into the only bad person around. Even if she is, there has to be substantial support to it. Her walk, gait and sentence formation scream of her ambiguous mindset, but while doing it, she also gives you the reasons to believe her. It’s stretched in the later part of the film though where she refuses to understand Robbie’s situation. Also, it appears Rumi seeks validation from the men in her life. Her volatility makes Rumi flawed, maybe real, but stuck in a time frame. This could be intentional, but it also make Manmarziyaan suffer from repetition.
Abhishek Bachchan’s character might not be as well etched as the other two but he delivers a swashbuckling performance in the film’s defining scene when he confronts Rumi after getting drunk for two straight days. He is about to burst and it seems he will take down the house with him. However, the director let go of the steam in the next scene when things get back to normal as if there was no tension in the previous one. A similar intensity is absent in consequent scenes.
Abhishek’s Boy Scout has a linear walk through, but for me, he is the backbone of Manmarziyaan. It couldn’t be half the film without him.
One of the finest filmmakers of our time, Anurag shows his range with Manmarziyaan. In one of his most easygoing films, he manages to add his touch to an otherwise old theme, and that makes Manmarziyaan a film worth spending time on.
Interact with Rohit Vats at Twitter/@nawabjha