Manmarziyaan: Taapsee Pannu, Vicky Kaushal Blow Your Minds in this Visceral Romance
Movie Review by Surangama Guha Roy (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
Undoubtedly one of the best movies released so far this year, Anurag Kashyap’s Manmarziyaan takes old wine, and molds it into a refreshing mix, before pouring it into a new bottle.
A love triangle set in Punjab, Manmarziyaan is heavily reminiscent of films like Woh Saat Din (1983), Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999), and even Tanu Weds Manu (2011). Yet, in typical gritty, albeit mellowed, Kashyap style, the film emotes a raw rusticity right from the beginning, setting the tone for a love story which, for once, feels real.
Rumi and Vicky are two millennials in a small town in Punjab, desperately in love, and even more desperate to get into bed with each other. Their unbridled passion embarrasses Rumi’s conservative Sikh relatives, who want to marry her off before more shame comes to the family. Enter Robbie, a London-based banker, who falls for Rumi the instant he lays eyes on her photo. What ensues is a layered saga of love, dotted with pain, heartbreak, confusion, sacrifice, and self-discovery.
Kashyap, known for poignantly capturing female sexuality, brings us what is possibly one of his most memorable female personas till date. Headstrong Rumi is fearless and feisty, impulsive and vulnerable. She loves wildly, gets embroiled in her own chaotic emotions, and cares little about the mayhem her decisions might leave in their wake. Taapsee Pannu, always comfortable in expressing herself more physically than emotionally, is aptly cast in a role that demands boundless energy. She delivers a career best performance, as her Rumi hurtles along, finally finding her way as she does so.
Vicky, essayed brilliantly by Vicky Kaushal, is the perfect Yang to Rumi’s Yin. Impulsive, irresponsible and immature, Vicky is the local DJ; he loves with a passion but fails to comprehend the value of commitment. Kaushal weaves magic into his adrenaline-driven character, beautifully carving out his niche in the script and never once allowing the audience to write him off as a good-for-nothing caricature. His feelings for Rumi are honest, his heartache unquestioning.
At the periphery of this co-dependent relationship, is Robbie. Abhishek Bachchan, in his comeback film after the 2016 fiasco Housefull 3, delivers a more-than-adequate performance as the strong and silent Robbie. Bachchan is no stranger to the ‘Ramji types’ role, having played the so-called mature third wheel in his early days. But gone are the days when Junior Bachchan would struggle hard to register basic emotions in laughable screenplays. As Robbie, Bachchan is confident, bringing an understated strength to his role, pulling off a decent job as the understanding, if slightly condescending elder partner, who is willing to indulge as his young wife sorts herself out. Robbie’s vulnerability breaks through as he comes face to face with a bitter truth, although Bachchan does rather mess up the one scene in the film that was meant to be his and his alone, falling back upon the ‘angry young man’ trope, and ending up with a weak, melodramatic imitation of it.
Amit Trivedi’s music matches the striking screenplay every step of the way. The soundtrack is soulful and hard-hitting depending on the plot-turns; chances are you’ll find yourself grinning coyly at Kaushal, as his uber-cool Vicky grooves uninhibitedly to the foot-tapping ‘Dhyan kithhe? Dhyanchand!’. The twin motif, irritating at first, becomes a running gag throughout the film, a mild, and ultimately funny, reminder of the director’s well-known, and slightly skewed, perspective of the world.
Kanika Dhillon’s screenplay explores young love/infatuation in the 21st century as it is – confused and chaotic for the most part, even bordering on the sociopathic at times, but beautiful and visceral as well. As in millions of films before this, the girl gets to choose between wild passion and a steady security. Yet, what makes this film stand out is the rugged, in-your-face approach and of course, the heartfelt performances of the three leads, especially of Pannu and Kaushal.
About 10-15 minutes too long, with a weaker second half, Manmarziyaan is, at the end of the day, Dev D in a female-driven narrative. It is Kashyap’s most gentle film till date, and a splendid one at that.