Film Review: Love has shades of grey in Manmarziyaan


Cast: Vicky Kaushal,Abhishek Bachchan,Taapsee Pannu

Director: Anurag Kashyap

Rating: 3.5 Moons

In what can be termed as a first, this is an Anurag Kashyap film that has no expletives or Nawazuddin Siddiqui! The actors are even lip syncing to songs.Does Manmarziyaan present a new story with Anurag Kashyap 2 point O? Read on and find out.

Manmarziyaan starts with an apt song that describes love, not as black and white, but shades of grey, quite efficiently setting the mood of the film. Alas, a few minutes into the film, I realised it is nothing but Chandni, Tanu Weds Manu, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi on steroids. Have we really run short of ideas that we keep playing with the same template again and again?

A girl caught between recklessness, charm and sex, oh that hottie ex, versus, maturity and calm of an uncle that mostly vex!

The actors change, the cities change and so does the language but the idea remains the same. And when it lands in the hands of Anurag Kashyap, it's treated with unabashed sex and unnecessary rebel without a cause or a pause!

The repetitive idea of a love triangle aside, our filmmakers haven't made much progress in portraying a feisty female character. On one hand, it's refreshing to see Rumi (Tapsee) as hormonal as Vicky (Kaushal), participating in fyaar (love making), controlling, demanding and just being a normal human being with a high libido. How most women are. How most women should be. In films. And in fiction. But like Cocktail and Tanu Weds Manu, she can't escape the tags. She is loose, immoral, dayan types as pointed out by Robbie (Abhishek). The same rules don't apply to Vicky though. He is irresponsible, callous but never characterless. Unlike Rumi, he never earns any degrading labels for his sexual drive. It's sad that we still don't have a fresh, equal narrative for women even in 2018, even when the story comes from a female writer, Kanika Dhillon.

Having said that, there is a lot to appreciate in Manmarziyaan. The film has some honest, almost disturbing conversations. It takes a hugely self-aware writer, director and actors to create such candid moments on screen. The confrontation scene where Rumi pulls Vicky up for not having a plan gives great insights into marriage and responsibility, infusing much needed realism in their dreamy world of hormones. Also Robbie's understanding of Rumi-Vicky's relationship sets new, progressive standards of manliness as he observes how helpless he is if Rumi continues to empower Vicky. What a line! What a scene! And especially the conversation in the climax of the film as the couple leisurely walks through the lanes of Amritsar, sans pretence or expectations, is a total winner. It just shows half our problems can be dealt with if we set aside our egos and insecurities and just communicated with each other with sheer honesty.

The film has its ample dose of humor as well. Crime Patrol and Phantom's Queen are cleverly woven in to cajole a few laughs. Don't miss a poster in Vicky's room that reads, "This says BC is Before Christ. Looks like it's a mistake!" Chuckle!

Manmarziyaan also introduces a new sense of realism in its characters. They are not completely black and white. There are shades of grey. And they are aware of it. And that's the beauty of it as well. Rumi is manipulating and she admits it too. Robbie the Ramji, knows his halo as well his horns. This self-awareness lends characters a human duplexity, often missing in Hindi films. This dualism is symbolically reflected in twin girls and twin Kashmiri boys who keep appearing in the film; perhaps Anurag's favourite metaphor. Remember those two boys in the song Pardesi in Dev D?

Recommended Read: Karan Johar gives an outstanding review to Manmarziyaan, but Taapsee has the best reaction

The performances are a class apart. Tapsee is gorgeous, has a screen presence and owns Rumi's chaos, confusion and complexity. The scene where she breaks down is one of her finest moments. Even the supporting cast is on song. Dubai-based Akshay Arora, Vishavpreet Kaur look like characters in a Punjabi household. But the star of the film is Vicky Kaushal. His character lends him great opportunity to play around and Vicky has a ball making the most of it. He is carefree and cocky yet vulnerable and helpless in love at the same time. And consistently funny. There is a brief moment where he is dead drunk and starts speaking in English to appear sober and sophisticated to a lady. Vicky speaks the loudest when he doesn't have lines. His eyes in his last scene do most of the talking.

The weakest link, however, is Abhishek Bachchan. He seems like a South Mumbai bloke caught in the lanes of Amritsar, like pasta dipped in lassi. How else do you explain his London connection in the film? The filmmakers forget, Indians are far more Punjabi in Birmingham than Bhatinda. He fails to own the dialect or Robbie's complexities and a turban can do only so much.

Manmarziyaan makes Punjab come alive. The narrow lanes, rooftops, the presswala attending to a queue of customers, the street vendors selling naans, samose and lassi, everything evokes nostalgia. Kudos to Meghna Gandhi, the production designer of the film.

There is a gorgeous shot framed beautifully. The mother opens the door to the couple returning from their honeymoon early morning. There is maze of wires in the corridor, around an old blaring door bell on an old creaking iron gate that stands next to a flight of modern new marble steps; much like the old Woh Saat Din love triangle, trying to find some meaning in new voices of this fresh writer-director duo.