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A refreshing new perspective from a teenager on the Taapsee Pannu – Vicky Kaushal – Abhishek Bachchan starrer Manmarziyaan that will make you want to watch it again.
Manmarziyaan is a fresh take on a bunch of beloved romance tropes, the main one being the love triangle. However, it did this with amazing flair and originality. Even better, the film had a strong feminist undercurrent. Here are some ways in which Manmarziyaan was truly a feminist love story.
Warning: Spoilers ahead.
Rumi, played by Taapsee Pannu, is complex and real. She has specific personality traits rather than being just a cardboard cutout. She runs and plays hockey (hence the title of the wonderful song Dhayaanchand). She eats spicy pani poori when she’s angry. She likes watching animal mating documentaries. Her sharp wit and love of practical jokes drew many laughs.
And yet, she has imperfections, unlike so many ‘perfect’ women in pop culture that pass as strong women these days. She is indecisive and sometimes irresponsible. She can be petty sometimes, and quite inconsiderate. And all those flaws are important because it means that the writers of this film have created a three-dimensional, strong female character.
In so many films, especially Indian ones, the surefire way for the guy to get the girl is for him to stalk her relentlessly even when she tells him to go away. A classic example is the couple played by Dharmendra and Hema Malini in Sholay. The former chases the latter even as she tries to escape him in a tonga, indicating that she doesn’t want him to follow her. Yet inexplicably, at the end of the scene she happily lets him climb into the tonga and they end up together at the end of the film.
Manmarziyaan avoids this damaging trope despite having such a scene in which Rumi is being chased by Vicky, played by Vicky Kaushal. The chasing and stalking does not work, however, and she refuses to consider him at all unless he corrects the thing she is really upset about, something which stalking and singing cannot fix.
There is a scene in which Vicky is kissing Rumi and she tells him to stop. His response is to keep kissing her and say something along the lines of, “if you want me to stop, tell me stop”. She shouts at him then, saying something like, “so I AM telling you to stop,” and pushes him away.
It’s made very clear that intimacy without consent is not sexy in any way and just plain wrong.
He cries because he’s human and sad, and it doesn’t have any consequences for his masculinity, as it shouldn’t. Kudos.
Rumi and her sister are very close, and her sister features in many of the most important events of the film. Her sister backs her up on all her decisions but also points it out when she feels Rumi is making a mistake. There is never any girl drama, just a valuable bond between two sisters.
MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD.
Rumi doesn’t end up with Robbie just because they got married and felt pressure to “make it work”. They decide to be together after they no longer have any obligation to each other, which I think is important because it means that the audience doesn’t leave with the message that women can be “tamed” through marriage, but rather that individual people will do what they want for their happiness. Hence, Manmarziyaan.
The story he tells people about the divorce puts the blame on him because he knows that he will get far less backlash for it than she will; it might destroy her life while people will quite easily ignore the fact that he is a divorcee.
Despite beating up the local matchmaker and drunkenly shouting about how Rumi is “meri Rumi”, he doesn’t get the girl in the end. If he had, it would have given young men an excuse to behave in the same way in an attempt to get the girl they want, and so creating a rape culture propped up by the rosy world of a movie. We have enough of that in our movies and Manmarziyaan is an important contribution in the opposite direction.
Robbie encourages Rumi to talk about what she feels and wants, including anything she might want to say about Vicky. He gives her the option to go back to him because he is fully aware that he doesn’t ‘own’ her. They even discuss their previous sex lives with startling bluntness. “Mein virgin nahin hoon (I am not a virgin),” Rumi says abruptly on their honeymoon, and Robbie tells her that he isn’t either. It’s treated as entirely normal, as it is.
This movie took several steps in the right direction and was wrapped in a wonderful soundtrack that I have been listening to for several days now. There was brilliant acting from all the actors, who often did not have to say anything at all to convey what they were feeling. Definitely something to catch before it goes out of cinemas!
Image source: stills from the movie Manmarziyaan
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