The many whims of Manmarziyan

Kabhi to bol, Rumi main hoon.

At around 30 minutes or so in Manmarziyan, Rumi (Taapsee Pannu) and Vicky (Vicky Kaushal) are eloping from their hometown Amritsar. No one knows what or who they are running from and no one knows where they are headed. A few hours on the road, their lack of perspective dawns on Rumi and she confronts Vicky about their plan or lack thereof. He says that he’s running because she asked him to. An exhausted Rumi snaps at him that why does he never assure her that he’s there, he’s there to take a stand for her, that she can trust him to think things through. To which Vicky repeats with the innocence of a child who has just been scolded that Rumi I am there. That argument brings out the essence of their relationship- it is pure spirit but no perspective.

Rumi and Vicky love each other. Their love is like an impulse, it is that rush of emotions that makes you jump roofs to be with the one that you love. Their love is like an addiction, it is that oblivion of being invested in each other so much that they barely register anybody’s existence, anybody’s needs or anybody’s discomfort when they are together. They love each other passionately for the world to see, they argue passionately for the world to see, they physically hurt each other for the world to see, even when they abandon each other, it is for the world to see. They are not shy of exhibiting the full spectrum of emotions that they swing through. It is not their character to hide from the world. The whole of Ambarsar (Amritsar) knows that neela kukkad (blue hen) and lal pari (red witch) – referred so in relation to the color of their hair- are dating each other. But it is that sort of knowledge that passes on the grapevine in hushed voices and only through the grapevine Rumi’s family knows it too, they suspect the same and it is confirmed when both of them are caught in Rumi’s room.

The plot sets in motion when the family pitches the idea of marriage and Rumi commits to them that Vicky along with his father will visit them the next day with a marriage proposal. It is both her impulse and her trust acting when she gives promises her family because though they have never even discussed marriage among themselves but she trusts that he loves her enough to honor her commitment. But here is where the conflict begins building. Vicky loves her enormously but he is reluctant to comply with her demands. It is too sudden for him, which is strange to hear because both Rumi and Vicky are ‘sudden’ in their decisions, there is no system/order to their decisions or lives. Vicky emotes out that conflict, that hesitation so beautifully where you see how madly does he love her yet he struggles to give her what she wants. He wants to give her everything but he is selfish too, he places his comfort and perhaps his constant desire to exist outside societal structures above his love for her. It’s easier for him to agree to elope than to marry because eloping is defiant and reckless and his love is both defiant and reckless.

Rumi doesn’t sit and weep for him. She tells him that if he wouldn’t marry her, she will go marry the first suitor that comes her way. Along comes Robbie (Abhishek Bachchan), her first suitor who falls for her the minute he sees her smiling vivaciously in a picture shown to him by a matchmaker. He is attracted to her, so much that he doesn’t want to meet any other girls for an arranged match, so much that he discovers about Rumi and Vicky’s affair through her Facebook account, yet he wants to marry her. You do not why, you do not understand what is it about her that draws him so passionately that he cannot turn his eyes away from her. Maybe it is the old school ‘opposites attract’ because she is feisty and he is calm -even in his arguments. He is the kind of man who apologizes for an outburst even when he is the one being wronged in that situation. However he is twisted in his own ways, he has his manipulative moments too and even though you want to sympathize with him for being caught between Rumi and Vicky’s mindless obsession for each other but you cannot because Robbie basically volunteers to be the third wheel.

Amidst the confusion, Robbie marries Rumi and he patiently waits, waits for her to at least look at him once. Rumi has no perspective here either, she walks herself into a marriage on a whim and she does not know what to do next. She eats, she runs, she obsessively watches animal mating documentaries on the television. It looks as if she is trying to come out of an addiction. It is an answer to that old knowledge that our elders attempt to pass on to us that marriage fixes everything. You see her struggle and her restlessness and you realize that her life is far from being fixed as of now. But Robbie waits for her, he never forces himself on her, he never questions her, he never stops her from doing anything. It is endearing to watch his silent and unflinching support.

Thirty or so minutes in the second half Robbie tells her that he is there for her, that she can come and tell him anything. These are the words that she has been yearning to hear right from the beginning. But the words are not coming from the man she has so passionately loved. That is what the underlying conflict of Manmarziyan is, how does one really choose between the wild spontaneity that Vicky stands for and the unconditional stability that Robbie offers her. And if Rumi gets what she wants, if she and Vicky were to get married, wouldn’t their love feel different, wouldn’t that tame the wild and free spirited nature of their love.

I saw Manmarziyan yesterday and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. The story is not new, I have seen this in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Woh Saat Din and Tanu weds Manu and disliked all three of them. The strength of Manmarziyan lies in its characters, if I were to quote the lyrics of the song ‘Grey wala shade‘ -” Kaala na safed hai, grey wala shade hai” – that is, no one is black or white, every character is grey. You see all of them torn between their complexes and what keeps you engaged is how will they resolve the chaos that they have brought upon themselves. The second strength is the world that they have built inside the movie- their families, the matchmaker- the household bickering, the clutter in middle class houses- everything comes out so authentic and believable. There isn’t an attempt to polish the city, the lanes, the garbage and grime around, the paint peeling off the walls. Punjabis are not used for comedic relief, they are not reduced to stereotypical caricatures, nobody breaks into a dancing fit singing balle balle and oye hoye, nobody is excessively loud except Rumi when she is vocalizing her rage. Even the use of Punjabi in conversations is authentic and consistent, characters simply do not slip in one or two random Punjabi words in their conversations. Nothing about their world looks manufactured or made up. The third strength is the music by Amit Trivedi that exactly mirrors the mood of the plot and of the characters. My favorites are Daryaa, Grey walaa shade, Dhayaanchand and Halla. I don’t know if it happens with others but I only warm up to songs when I have a story to attach to them, so I end up liking the music only when I have seen the movie once and I am aware of the context.

I have learned the hard way (read arguments) to not recommend movies because movie choices can be highly subjective but if you are interested in watching a fresh take on love and the things people do in love, then Manmarziyan is worth a chance.

The image has been sourced from Wikipedia.

3 thoughts on “The many whims of Manmarziyan

  1. Click, Write, Breathe says:

    Whatta a review πŸ™ŒπŸ»!

    I have been dying to watch this movie, especially because it is directed by Anurag kashyap (one of my favourites!), but my limited knowledge of Punjabi is stopping me! But then you have portrayed it so beautifully, It has ignited the desire again!

    By the way, did you know this movie is loosely based on life of Amrita Pritam?

    • Palak says:

      Thanks a lot for reading!
      Barring the conversations among the family members, the rest of the dialogues are in Hindi, so your limited knowledge of Punjabi would do.
      I didn’t know that bit about Amrita Pritam. In fact a line from her works is quoted in the movie and I had been wondering that how and why did they choose her specifically.
      I guess you have given me something more to Google about this movie just when I thought I was done 😍

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