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Toxic Love

Saturday, September 15, 2018
By Deepa Gahlot

Anurag Kashyap
Cast: Taapsee Pannu, Abhishek Bachchan, Vicky Kaushal and others
Rating: * * *

The female protagonist of Anurag Kashyap’s ‘Manmarziyaan’, named Rumi, and played by the wonderful Taapsee Pannu, has married a man her family chose for her, when her lover let her down. After the wedding, she enters their hotel room, orders food for herself, wordlessly turns on the TV, and gives her new husband the cold shoulder.

Filmmakers are seldom able to handle women who are truly unconventional, and their idea of bold is a woman, who smokes, drinks, is ill-mannered and inconsiderate. Rumi is constantly irritable and rude to everyone except her grandfather.

She gets into a volatile affair with a local DJ, Vicky (Vicky Kaushal), after meeting him on Tinder.  But when it comes to commitment, he dithers. Surprisingly, for a woman who is so headstrong, she actually expects Vicky to look after her. When she bullies him into eloping, she asks him where they will live and on what? And he rightly replies with bafflement that it was her idea to run away. So Rumi across as the kind of hyprocrite who pretends to take the lead and then relinquishes responsibility.

Which is why her shocking meanness towards Robbie (Abhishek Bachchan), the gentle guy she agrees to marry after Vicky lets her down, makes her even less sympathetic. Vicky tries to grow up, while Robbie gathers up his reserves of patience for a woman who talks to him only when she is slightly drunk. At one point she asks him, if he was always the “Ramji type”.  As if decency is a flaw in a man.

Kashyap and his writer Kanika Dhillon capture the Amritsar language, sights, sounds and surprising broadmindedness. Nobody condemns Rumi outright for her bad behavior; when caught with Vicky in her room, all her grandfather calmly tells Vicky is to wear his T-shirt the right side out. No swords are brandished or family honour invoked.

Kashyap quirkily uses twin dancers as recurring motifs, in the song sequences — and Amit Trivedi’s music is a highlight.  What fails the film is its predictable, done-before plot (Swami, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, etc), and a woman who is all bluster, no substance — though Taapsee Pannu plays her with a vulnerability that is not written into her actions. Vicky Kaushal is marvellous as the blue-haired man-child, but Abhishek Bachchan portraying the quiet strength of Robbie steals almost every scene he is in.

‘Manmarziyaan’ has considerable merit, but frankly, a love story with such a conventional core was not expected from Anurag Kashyap.

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