Man­marziyan: Two cou­ples, zero chem­istry

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - - YOURSPACE - DEEPANJANA PAL

A few days be­fore the re­lease of Anurag Kashyap’s new film Man­marziyan, a mat­ri­mo­nial ad went vi­ral. It was for a Mysore-based bach­e­lor who boasted of a “Rig and Atharva vedic back­ground” and wanted a “non-fem­i­nist” bride. When some­one emailed this gen­tle­man with a prank re­sponse to his mat­ri­mo­nial, he replied with a rape threat that ra­di­ated machismo and anger. He signed off as “Mas­cu­line war­rior killer” (sounds sui­ci­dal from some­one who con­sid­ers them­selves a war­rior, but maybe that’s the fault of my non-vedic ed­u­ca­tion) and “Rapist of all fem­i­nists” (thus alert­ing us to not only his crim­i­nal as­pi­ra­tions, but also to the fact that self-as­sess­ment is not his forte).

One can only hope that in a par­al­lel uni­verse, the ar­ranged mar­riage cir­cus will bring the Mysore-based bach­e­lor face-to-face with Man­marziyan’s Rumi (and her very hot brother Babloo. What? We must grab all the eye-candy we can and hello, ally­ship is im­por­tant).

Rumi is a hockey player in the sheets and a daayan (vi­rago) in the streets. At one point, when a pani-puri seller has the temer­ity to tell her how much spice she should eat, Rumi tells him, “Jalaana hai mu­jhe. Dragon hoon main (I want to burn it all down. I’m a dragon).” When her boyfriend tries to un­break her heart, Rumi lit­er­ally beats him with her hockey stick. Later, her way of show­ing af­fec­tion to her hus­band is to stuff snow down his shirt, which melts and finds its way to his crotch. They go back to their chalet with him walk­ing like a pen­guin and sport­ing a strate­gi­cally-po­si­tioned wet patch, and her gig­gling.

There’s a lot that’s beau­ti­fully on-point in Man­marziyan. For in­stance, Kashyap’s de­ci­sion to use twins as a mo­tif through­out the film is in­spired.

More than a re­minder of Dev. D, it’s a clever bit of quirk that sub­tly clues you into the fact that Man­marziyan is about peo­ple who have two sides to their per­son­al­ity. Kanika Dhillon’s story, script and di­a­logues are filled with per­cep­tive de­tails and the three leads are as con­fused, in­se­cure and con­flicted as real peo­ple tend to be.

The only thing miss­ing in Man­marziyan is love, which is a shame be­cause the film is of­fi­cially a love tri­an­gle. De­spite be­ing well-made, there isn’t one tingly mo­ment of ro­mance that makes you want to linger with Rumi, Vicky and Rob­bie. This is par­tic­u­larly ironic be­cause the film is ded­i­cated to Pun­jabi poet Am­rita Pritam, whose life and work crackle with ro­man­tic en­ergy.

In the 1940s, an un­hap­pi­ly­mar­ried Pritam fell in love with poet and lyri­cist Sahir Lud­hi­anvi who, much like Vicky in Man­marziyan, just couldn’t bring him­self to com­mit to Pritam even though he loved her deeply. (There’s a cir­cle of hell re­served for Kashyap and Dhillon, for mak­ing me imag­ine Lud­hi­anvi with the hair ‘art’ that Vicky sports in the film.) That re­la­tion­ship would even­tu­ally leave both Lud­hi­anvi and Pritam with bro­ken hearts, and bleed into Pritam’s po­etry. She would even­tu­ally find the love of her life in artist Im­roz, who wasn’t threat­ened by her pas­sion for Lud­hi­anvi. “I only knew he ac­cepted me, my mad­ness,” Pritam said of Im­roz.

That mad­ness is there in Man­marziyan’s story, but trans­lated to vi­su­als, when Rumi and Vicky smashed their lips against each other in a kiss that’s sup­posed to be epic, all I won­dered was whether their teeth were gnash­ing. When Rob­bie was watch­ing Rumi, you felt for him and you hurt for her, but there was no long­ing. In short: there are two cou­ples and zero chem­istry in Man­marziyan.

Ro­mances are the uni­corns of pop­u­lar cin­ema, urg­ing you to thumb your nose at con­ven­tions. Even at its most for­mu­laic and rose-tinted, love sto­ries em­body re­bel­lion and hope when they’re done well. Char­ac­ters push bound­aries and ques­tion rules. Through the tropes, we’re told that the uni­verse will re­ward us for not con­form­ing and the gifts it will give us will be more sat­is­fy­ing than what so­ci­ety gives us in ex­change for our con­form­ity. It’s a tough sell for a coun­try and so­ci­ety that is re­minded with ev­ery other What­sapp mes­sage that so­cial di­vides are sa­cred.

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