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Anurag Kashyap’s Manmarziyaan Is An Exhausting, Messy Love Story With Messier Characters

  • IWB Post
  •  September 14, 2018

September seems to be the month of love stories in Bollywood, first with Laila Majnu and now with Manmarziyaan. While the former dealt with love that drives you to madness, the latter deals with love that begins as madness and destroys every other relationship in its path.

The fact that Anurag Kashyap was making an unadulterated love story, sans any murder or drugs, has been the talking point since the trailer of Manmarziyaan dropped. But you can tell that this is a Kashyap film because it doesn’t follow traditional romcom tropes: there is no meet-cute and marriage is the conflict, not the solution or the happily ever after.

Rumi (Taapsee Pannu) is in a passionate relationship with Vicky (Vicky Kaushal), who likes to leap across roofs to make love to her every morning. All of Amritsar knows this but doesn’t make a big deal about it until they are caught in the act by Rumi’s chachi (her parents died many years ago). Now they want to get her married, so she starts pressuring Vicky to come to her house with his rishta. Vicky freaks out at this unexpected turn of events and, angry at him and the world, Rumi decides to get married to whoever the hell shows up to her house next. And the man to do that is NRI banker Robbie (Abhishek Bachchan).

From there on, you see three people, all in love, make some sensible but mostly terrible decisions, go back on them, make new choices, and then regret those choices. What happens ultimately is not hard to guess if you know how Bollywood works, or how our society functions. Our films find it hard to understand millennial love, and harder still to portray it on screen (just look at Befikre), but Kashyap gets a lot of it right, beginning with how intrinsic technology is to our love stories. Rumi met Vicky on Tinder, and then deleted it off his phone. Robbie stalks her on Facebook before meeting her, and Rumi and Vicky use Facetime to make each other jealous. Bonus points to writer Kanika Dhillon for making Rumi talk about her orgasm and her abortion without making a haaye-tauba about either.

A lot of people might find the central characters, especially Rumi, selfish and manipulative beyond belief. And to be fair, they are all douchebags of the highest order, but in a somewhat relatable manner. After all, who hasn’t made idiotic decisions about their love life after some emotional blackmail and well-intentioned but ill-timed gyaan from their family? I could digest Rumi’s confusion and Vicky’s manchild tendencies, but I could not get over how emotionally manipulative Robbie was. He is the quintessential Nice Guy who wants gigantic favours in return for his niceness. Here, Robbie says that he’s in love with Rumi, but when exactly did that happen? When he was Facebook stalking her or watching her pine over her ex? He doesn’t say much, he’s supposed to be the silent and stable type in contrast to Vicky’s impulsiveness, but it seems like he was doing a lot of that just to show Rumi what she could be missing if she doesn’t marry him.

Abhishek, back from a two-year sabbatical, plays Robbie with great restraint, but is only required to have one expression for most of the film. The one scene where he finally yells and shouts about the fuckery going on around him gives him more to do than the entire rest of the film. Vicky, the only consistent character in the film, is played to perfection by his namesake. Kaushal is the right combination of vulnerable and defiant, and does the part of diljala aashiq justice. Taapsee’s Rumi, the focal point of this triangle, is a fiery but frustrating woman and Taapsee doesn’t miss a beat. Her gorgeous hair, as unrestrained as her acting, is almost like a supporting character and I’m glad that we got a backstory for that as well.

The songs, though brilliant, seem like too many and too much, before you realise that it’s probably the soundtrack to which Rumi and Vicky are making all their dumb decisions, and then they all make sense. Kashyap uses the recurring motif of twin girls dancing and twin Kashmiri boys drinking kahwa, who watch Rumi navigate through life while these songs play in her ears, highlighting the duality in her character. The one who wants to run away but keeps coming back to the same man.

This is a messy film about messy love, but its title is perfect. Manmarziyaan was marketed as Husband Material for the Toronto International Film Festival, but a more apt English title for it would have been Everyone Is Doing Whatever The Hell They Want And It’s Somewhat Yet Not Entirely A Trainwreck.

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