Eros International, Colour Yellow Productions & Phantom Films present “Manmarziyan”

Produced by: Aanand L. Rai, Vikas Bahl, Madhu Mantena & Vikramaditya Motwane

Directed by: Anurag Kashyap

Written by: Kanika Dhillon

Music: Amit Trivedi

Starring: Abhishek Bachchan, Taapsee, Vicky Kaushal, Ashnoor Kaur, Arun Bali, Neetu Kohli, Saurabh Sachdeva, Vikram Kochhar, Sukhmani Sadana, Poonam Shah, Priyanka Shah, and others

MUMBAI—If a film is in Hindi and English, we mention that it is in Hindi and English, or call it a Hinglish film. By that token, for starters, “Manmarziyaan,” a word that translates as ‘wishes of the mind’ (as in living according to them) should be described as being in Hindi and Punjabi.

Why do I say this? Well, almost 20 percent of the dialogues are in Punjabi, or so it seems. And 70 percent of the lyrics are actually in Punjabi too. A conditioned and brainwashed colleague told me, “So what? The film is set in Amritsar!” Really, friend? Then please reply to these three questions:

One – Hundreds of films have been made over decades in Punjab or on Punjabis. Why were those Hindi films in HINDI? Including, needless to add, “DDLJ.”

Two – Is this film meant for ONLY Punjabi audiences? On is it made for a pan-Indian audience? Honest answer needed!

Three and most important – Will they be okay if a film is based on Maharashtra, Gujarat, Bengal or the South and they get to hear as much of that language in dialogues and lyrics?? EVEN MORE, honesty needed in the answer!!

So, we know Anurag Kashyap is bitten by the “realism” bug and also cannot go dark here. His trademark template of “gaali aur goli (expletives and violence)” has to be junked. He wants to again try a mainstream approach, which he so disastrously attempted three years ago in “Bombay Velvet.” An overrated filmmaker like him has no choice: he picks up another, lesser-used template in a love triangle: where the girl is married but the ‘aashiq’ is persistent, and the girl is tempted to have her cake and eat it too.

With distinct variations, this proforma has been followed in B.R. Chopra’s “Gumraah” (1963), Raghunath Jhalani’s “Badaltey Rishtey” (1978), Bapu’s “Woh 7 Din” (1983) and most successfully in “Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam” (1999). In the by-lanes of Amritsar, Rumi (Taapsee Pannu), an orphan who lives with her uncle’s family, has a whopping affair with Vicky Sandhu (Vicky Kaushal), a confused and irresponsible young man who is a part-time DJ. When this affair is discovered, her uncle and aunt decide to marry her off.

Robbie (Abhishek Bachchan), London-based and in Amritsar city for a matrimonial alliance, is offered choices by marriage broker Kakkaji (Saurabh Sachdeva) and he flips for her. When he watches her dance at a local wedding, his instant love is complete.

Rumi insists that Vicky get married to her. But Vicky shies away, and she threatens to marry the next man, whoever it may be. She asks him to elope, and when they do, she realizes that he is not someone mature enough to take responsibility for her and them. She gets engaged to Robbie and Vicky goes wild. Robbie, who has come to know of their affair, quietly arranges that there is no impediment in their marriage, thanks to the wild boyfriend.

To me, this brief sequence is the best part of the script, where Robbie’s motives are totally born of love and caring for Rumi, but for that, he has to be ruthless. However, from the wedding night, Robbie realizes that it is going to be an uphill task to win Rumi over and eliminate Vicky from her life. How does that finally happen?

No, the last question is no spoiler. The Indian audience will NEVER accept a film in which a marriage is broken for a pre-marriage boyfriend. A Kashyap beleaguered by flops and desperately wanting to reinvent will not even dare to take that risk.

However, with his fetish for outraging audience sentiments, his obsession for darkness and his passion (!) for “realism,” he does show something that can substantially affect the commercial prospects of his first wholesome film as director and his third one otherwise – Kashyap had co-written and co-produced “Queen” (super-hit) and “Hasee Toh Phasee” (breakeven). This film is likely to fall somewhere in-between at the box-office that Kashyap is trying to woo again.

And yes, the final removal of the boyfriend is also very tepidly shown. If it were so easy, why could it not have happened eons earlier?

But for these two points, Kanika Dhillon’s script is fairly riveting and enjoyable in the many one-liners, though most of the light touches start only about 20 to 25 minutes into the film. A novel touch, just like the wandering musicians in “Life…In A Metro” or the Chinese couple singing a Hindi-Punjabi situational song in “Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi” is of (real) twin sisters Poonam and Priyanka Shah coming in at intervals to dance during apt junctures. They are characters totally unconnected with the plot.

Kashyap has just begun his tryst with the bright brand of cinema, and we hope he keeps at it and turns into an asset for Hindi cinema, which to be brutally frank, he has never been as a director. He has the talent to improve by leagues if he keeps at it. The technical side is good, with Sylvester Fonseca’s cinematography, especially in Kashmir, looking magical.

Amit Trivedi’s background score is decent, but we cannot say the same for his music, as only a few of the 11 songs are good. “Meri Sacchi Mohabbat Kacchi Reh Gayee” is the best, also lyrically – all lyrics are by Shellee.

The ace in the film is Taapsee, who is magnificent again after “Pink,” “Naam Shabana” and “Mulk.” She effortlessly steals away her scenes with every co-star, and her eyes are amazingly evocative. Remove her from this film, and it loses more than half its sheen.

Vicky Kaushal strikes his third gold after “Raazi” and “Sanju” and is extremely likable as the hyper, confused yet goalless Vicky of the film. His hyper acts are terrific, but the places where he actually scores are those close-ups where he demonstrates his vulnerability, helplessness and the self-realization of his shortcomings, like in the elopement sequence.

Abhishek Bachchan wonderfully underplays his role, and again, does not have to make any effort to stand out in what must be his most nuanced performance this side of “Bol Bachchan.” I have always maintained that he is the most underrated actor of his generation and a man of range, and this film is indubitable proof of that.

From the rest, Vikram Kocchar remains a natural scene-stealer (as in his sitcom “Sumit Sambhal Lega”) as Robbie’s elder brother, and his expressions and comments, especially on his parents, are a scream. Ashnoor Kaur as the quiet cousin is winsome, and both Neetu Kohli (Robbie’s mother) and the actress playing Rumi’s aunt are excellent.

I only wish the length had not been so long (157 minutes) and the deficiencies avoided – especially the overdose of Punjabi in the lyrics as well as the dialogues.

Otherwise, for an Anurag Kashyap movie, this film indeed stands out.

Rating: ***1/2

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