An immature guy who cannot stand for the girl he loves. A girl who is finding it hard to make decisions for her own self. A third guy whose ego is hurt as he puts attraction above rational thinking for just one time. The love-triangle story, so to say, ties in these three flawed individuals, puts them in awkward situations, but never judges them for their mistakes. Though it might be leading towards an ending that sees the girl choosing left or right, it is more about delving into her “middling” state of mind.

Kanika Dhillon’s characters are goddamn transparent and leave no room for any abstract assumptions that this is what he/she “might be going through”. A lot of things that would go unsaid in your normal Bollywood romance drama get a mention here. I am not saying the writing is too calculative either, it feels as human as it can get, thanks to its superlative performances. The acting is the primary factor that makes Manmarziyaan last its stay in spite of its seemingly thin plot. Taapsee is astounding as the erratic Rumi, a character who travels to absolute extremes in the film’s timeline. Watch her the morning after a night of alcohol, or when she speaks through her eyes with her grandfather. Abhishek Bachchan’s composure is the other highlight, for a character who assumes he knows exactly what he is walking into. He plays his cards close to his chest even during his breakdowns, and yet strikes hard. His measured act is balanced by Vicky Kaushal’s relentless energy.

These characters are swimming neck-deep in a pool of complex emotions, and this is where Kashyap comes in to elevate the game. He explores these depths in such a way that makes the film look effortlessly engaging. He knows how to get us inside these characters’ heads. At times he is using diegetic elements like the coolness of a refrigerator, and for majority of the film he uses a brilliant Amit Trivedi as a tool to establish intangible emotions. For me, this is his best work since “Ugly“, simply for how there are hardly any missteps on the horizon.

I do feel Vicky’s exit could have done with more elaboration, from either of their POVs – his or Rumi’s. It felt like a hastily done jump in a screenplay that was otherwise dealing with indecisiveness by adding enough weight to either of the choices on the character’s hands.

It’s been a long while since I could empathize with the conflict in a Bollywood romance film. Well of course, it has to do with its small-town roots and grounded emotions, but it’s done with a sensibility that respects our intelligence.


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