It sure holds true for Rumi (Taapsee Pannu) — the wilful, fiery, beguiling protagonist of Anurag Kashyap’s crackerjack love triangle — caught between a romance that has no future and a marriage that cannot shrug off the past.
It’s a story we know like the back of our hand. The rush of youth, the pangs of desire and the fickleness of first love has come a long way since it was righteously forsaken for mellow, magnanimous life partners (Woh Saat Din, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi) covertly asserting the one-upmanship of stability over sex.
Kashyap doesn’t challenge the status quo as much as savour the process of indecision by favouring faltering human impulses over sanctimonious stereotypes in a way like only he can.
Much credit must go to writer Kanika Dhillon whose zesty imagination and full-bodied eloquence offers such an intimate view of foolhardy minds, fascinated is a foregone conclusion. Manmarziyaan is a meaty slice of Tinder-day relationships where love is a libidinous explosion that is unafraid of consequences and flies in the face of discretion.
More fornicating rabbits than puppy love, Rumi and Vicky (Vicky Kaushal) have a torrid thing going — they’ve even got a word for it — fyaar. Of course a lot more sexual, the screen hasn’t witnessed such marvellous display of unself-conscious affection since Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh.
A wannabe deejay ripping off style and songs from local rock stars, commitment is not Vicky’s strongest point. A casual reference to an abortion suggests Rumi doesn’t mind. She doesn’t admit to giving up hockey for his sake either. And if they wouldn’t look so darn made-for-each-other together you’d honestly wonder why.
Rumi is foolish by choice; her outbursts make sure to let us know lest we take her passion for pig-headedness. It doesn’t work, but Manmarziyaan feels all the more real for it.
The film’s sunny disposition, witty zingers and soaring soundtrack cannot betray the couple’s propensity for mischief and misdemeanour even after their not-so-clandestine meetings over cigarettes and chocolates becomes public knowledge.
Cue for Robbie (Abhishek Bachchan), a London-based banker to make his entry. In going along with his overexcited mum’s plans to marry him off through an unhappily married bloke’s (a fabulous Saurabh Sachdeva) ‘vyaah‘ agency that offers special discounts for NRIs, he signs up for more complication than a Facebook friendship request could ever anticipate.
But the business of arranged marriages is aggressive and Kashyap uses it as a ploy to remove Robbie and Rumi out of Amritsar’s heady sights and sounds and right into Kashmir’s snow-clad solitude.
The change of pace is not easy to adjust to, but that’s exactly Manmarziyaan‘s point.
Rumi’s heartbreak doesn’t have the strength of her pride and pragmatism. Robbie’s willingness to be a romantic ‘option’ is easier said than done and Vicky’s immaturity and ineptitude overpowers his regret.
Kashyap and Dhillon probe into their emotional conflicts with quirk and empathy while steering clear of melodrama.
Richly rooted in local flavours and ambience of everyday Amritsar, Manmarziyaancomes alive in the exasperation of a modest family running out of ways to make Rumi get her act together, the hilarious banter between Robbie’s curious mom and sharp-tongued domestic help, a stream of Amit Trivedi-Shelle’s breathtaking, narrative-enabling songs and the presence of dancing twins (Poonam and Priyanka Kaur) marking its many vibrant moments.
I don’t know if it is a stylistic device or something symbolic, I made my own theory about the recurring imagery of twins popping in between songs followed by lookalike bystanders in Kashmir. They reminded me of the Gemini twins and what I’d read in a Linda Goodman book of zodiac signs long ago, ‘Gemini is the sign of the twins, and there are two distinct sides to his changeable personality. Now you see it, now you don’t.’ Perhaps Rumi is one since these traits aptly explain her mercurial personality.
Expressing them ever so magnificently, Taapsee Pannu burns up the silver screen with her ruthless abandon and drive. It is a performance made on fire and completely devoid of filters.
Her Rumi is a tribute to writer Amrita Pritam, to whom Manmarziyaan is dedicated and whose ardour for the evasive Sahir Ludhianvi and unconditionally giving Imroz inspires its triangle. During one of its more poignant moments, Pannu recites a few lines of her poem, Main Tainu Phir Milangi.
Vicky Kaushal’s man-child portrayal of an essentially self-absorbed good-for-nothing turns on the charm and shows why Rumi overlooks his follies like we do. One wrong note and it could all fall apart, but Kaushal is knockout.
Abhishek Bachchan’s return to the screen doesn’t have the bluster of these two. It doesn’t aim for the sympathy of a Vanraj or Suri either.
Unlike Rumi or Vicky, Robbie is someone we are allowed to figure on our own. Just when you think he is a 40-something lonely guy with low self worth agreeing to shabby treatment because of his deep belief in nice guys finish last, he surprises you. Bachchan plays the underdog like he has known him all along.
Manmarziyaan explores the depths of Anurag Kashyap’s versatility. And the indulgence he is often accused of shows up only towards the end to provide answers of what should have ended at a request.
But the heart has its reasons and in Manmarziyaan they are all over the place.