Love is a shade of grey. That’s the first thing an Anurag Kashyap romantic comedy tells you.
Before premiering at TIFF 2018, ‘Manmarziyaan’ went through a lot of changes. Initially directed by Sameer Sharma, the film starred Bhumi Pednekar, Ayushmann Khurrana and Dulquer Salmaan. However, producer Aanand L Rai, unhappy with the way things were going, decided to change gears and start from scratch. This was 2016. After two years, a new director and a different cast, Rai’s film is now proudly premiering at one of the biggest festivals in the world. With a team consisting of Anurag Kashyap, Taapsee Pannu, Vicky Kaushal and Abhishek Bachchan, we finally get to see the ‘Manmarziyaan’ Rai had envisioned.
Love is a shade of grey. That’s the first thing an Anurag Kashyap romantic comedy tells you. Serenades to you, more specifically. The first few minutes of ‘Manmarziyaan’ greet you with song and dance, instantly suggesting this isn’t a typical Kashyap film. And the music doesn’t end there: there’s a wedding song, a remix, a song pacifying a girlfriend, breakup tracks… the film even ends with a love ballad. It’s all very unlike the usual Kashyap, but you can still find him if you look close enough: in the dialogue, the rough edges of the characters, the hidden metaphors and, of course, the soundtrack. Just like most of Kashyap’s collaborations with Amit Trivedi, this soundtrack is perfectly in rhythm with the story. The music is woven into the film seamlessly, as the story slips in and out of song according to the narrative.
‘Manmarziyaan’ is a love trangle between Rumi (Taapsee Pannu), her commitment-phobic DJ boyfriend Vicky (Vicky Kaushal) and her calm, collected arranged marriage suitor Robbie (Abhishek Bachchan). Rumi is a feisty, impulsive Punjabi woman at odds with her family, who are insisting on her marriage. At first glance, she seems like the typical manic pixie dream girl Bollywood has been obsessed with ever since ‘Jab We Met’ (2007). But what sets Rumi apart is that she isn’t the carefree, positive ray of sunshine that changes the hero’s life. She is smart, angry and always fighting for herself. Sick of Vicky’s non-committal, carefree attitude, she puts an ultimatum in front of him: marry me or I’ll marry someone else. As Vicky’s self-doubt takes over him, Rumi follows through on her promise and settles on an arranged marriage with Robbie. But unfortunately for them, feelings don’t fade as fast as relationship titles do.
‘Manmarziyaan’ depicts this complicated relationship from three individual perspectives. The story is more about the three people in love, and less about love itself. By focusing on each person separately, screenwriter Kanika Dhillon never loses the individuality of the characters. Post-marriage Rumi still deals with her emotions the same way she used to, post-breakup Vicky still reacts like a child. Dhillon also manages to highlight the complexity of being in love as her characters go through jealousy, sorrow, regret, confusion, often all at the same time. The film constantly highlights how torn the characters feel in love, standing at the crossroads between mind and heart, risk and reward, anger and longing. The duality the characters face within themselves is symbolized through identical twins popping up in the background – a lovely cameo by the dancing duo Poonam and Priyanka. All three of them are stuck between black and white – different values of the same color, which come together and make gray.
The parts of the film that feel repetitive are rescued by the fabulous performances the actors have given. Kaushal specifically has a tough character to portray in Vicky, and he effortlessly manages to show the vulnerability and insecurity so vital to making the character likeable. Both Pannu and Bachchan make perfect sense as Rumi and Robbie, fitting into their roles like a glove. Pannu has managed to establish two different, but equally capivating connections with each of her co-stars, even though both relationships in the film are poles apart. Neelu Kohli and Vikram Kochhar, who improvised most of their scenes, are hilarious as Robbie’s mother and house help.
With a strong cast and crew, an incredible soundtrack and a satisfying ending, it’s hard to find many flaws in ‘Manmarziyaan’. However, a word of warning: if you are expecting typical Anurag Kashyap, sit this one out. Instead of the usual anger and darkness, Kashyap has put his heart into this one.
BizAsiaLive.com rating: 4.5/5