Anurag Kashyap's lovers have no enemies to shoot, says Sreehari Nair, and so they take aim at each other.
They hunt as a pair, but she now wants to nest.
In the trailer for Anurag Kashyap's Manmarziyaan, when Vicky Kaushal (who plays Vicky) carries Taapsee Pannu (who plays Rumi) on his shoulders and together they walk between thatched roof houses, they are less like two separate individuals and more like one whole flashily dressed beast.
If Rumi and Vicky have a problem, it's too much chemistry.
This is the kind of chemistry that usually prompts the man to take a step backwards, and provides the woman the urgency to give their relationship a well-defined name.
Rumi wants to nest.
Vicky wants to hunt.
Anurag Kashyap may be waving us in on the set template of 'The Commitment Phobic Man Vs the Dreamy-Eyed yet Strong-Willed Woman', but it's the context of his story that could be the magic glue here.
For Vicky's hunting seems not merely a 'personal project', but an extension of the spirit of this age and of his land, Punjab.
Punjab: Where the young may receive their lingo from politicians and small-time goons, their ambitions from matinee idols and their work ethics from sportsmen.
But their attitude, their soul and their sense of movement, they get from the unlikeliest of heroes: The DJ.
So a DJ presents Love as a Package Deal, Fyar (F*** + Pyar), which a chaste-sounding Radio Announcer broadcasts, and before we know, Rumi and Vicky are grooving to the rhythms of Fyar.
Bhangra beats, Soft music, and Protest Numbers rendered in haste.
Multi-coloured curtains promoting dubious tastes.
Half-constructed buildings, stucco not waterproof.
Sunlight that bounces off faces and disco lights that give you the dazes.
Tears, broken hearts and even a honeymoon -- can this really be an Anurag Kashyap film?
Kashyap, the Badass.
The gatekeeper of our muddied consciences.
One of our finest churners of grit, violence, and comedies of bad behaviour.
Is this that man?
Both those who are proclaiming Manmarziyaan to be a change of pace for Kashyap and those who are defending his right to change, may soon realise that their debate is a non-issue.
With Manmarziyaan, my guess is that Kashyap has found a subject that would allow his favourite themes to manifest themselves not overtly but subterraneously -- and the results could well be shocking.
Manmarziyaan promises to be about the violence of love.
It's a movie that seems to understand that love is as destructive as it is powerful.
It's a movie that seems to understand that we never really get better at love.
It's a movie that wants to suggest that things happen that stop us from achieving our notion of ideal love -- the world intrudes on sex; lovers test and try to change one another; lovers try to resist the change.
And isn't this how most of us experience love and sex? Not as deep or meaningful experiences but as half-formed, funny, random, and filled with day-to-details.
In 2018, a motion picture that doesn't explore this violence of love runs the risk of being termed 'sentimental' (Future armies of cine-goers, I believe, will find that there's more love in Aashiq Abu's Mayaanadhi than, say, a Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge).
Manmarziyaan promises to be about lovers, who create one another and also kill a part of one another -- Anurag Kashyap's deaths, this time around, may be less visible but more disquieting.
None of this, however, is laid on too thick in the trailer.
And therein, lies its art.
If there's a theory that can be applied to movie trailers, it's that the best ones are impressionistic.
The best movie trailers don't have the patience to spell out storylines; they are more keen on bringing to you news of their milieu.
These trailers are often about the sights and sounds of their settings -- about the light that leaks in unchecked, or attitudes that bubble up through a casual quip here, a casual quip there.
A good trailer does not define its characters in easy terms, is never too hot about 'subjects and issues', and wants to, most of all, present snapshots of its world.
The trailer of Manmarziyaan is beautifully done because it buries its themes underneath a few lines of dialogue while giving you a tour of the movie's characters and its style.
There becomes evident in a shot, Kashyap's love for nautanki, for the tradition of oral storytelling -- with background dancers magically appearing to underscore the spirit of a story-segment (Think back to Paintra from Mukkabaaz).
When the lovers fight or trade verbal blows, they are not winning but just trying to get through an exchange.
Their screams and bellows stay unintelligent and animalesque and they use as their weapons, kitchen utensils.
Even the heartbreaks of these lovers aren’t grand -- they are delicate, incremental.
When Vicky playfully says after sex, 'Let us elope now,' he does so in the heat of the moment.
But to Rumi, it is serious business.
And so, when she asks rather enthusiastically, 'Abhi?', causing Vicky to bring the moment back to its playful tone, joking about his mother's Gobi Ke Parathe, it is as if he had interrupted Rumi's orgasm midway.
Nothing in Taapsee Pannu's other screen performances suggests the beauty and frailty she brings to that moment of dream-expressed-as-eagerness.
There's a subtle logic to love, to which women are better attuned than men, and Manmarziyaan is clearly Rumi's story, about her search for that harmony within.
There's time still to decide if Manmarziyaan has got its casting spot-on, but for now, it appears to be shrewd in that department.
Vicky Kaushal understands Anurag Kashyap's method.
Taapsee Pannu seems to have been seduced into working within that method.
Abhishek Bachchan was possibly cast because Kashyap wanted to rattle Bachchan with his exploratory method of working, and use the actor's resulting discomfort as a means to fashion his character.
Bachchan's Robbie, who seems to use his turban only as a part of his official attire and whose name is perhaps the only funky thing about him, is doomed to look out of place in this world.
When Vicky Kaushal is around, you get the sense that pretty much anything can happen.
He can jump from rooftop to rooftop or change into a T-shirt just to convey his state-of-mind.
In scenes involving Kaushal and Taapsee Pannu, Kashyap is clearly allowing for a more controlled form of improvisation.
It's in the sequences between Bachchan and Pannu that the moments feel 'written'.
She asks if he is the Ramji-type; he enquires back if she's the Daayan-type.
The back-and-forth there never quite leaps off the page -- there's no real transcendence, only punchline wit.
My feeling is that Abhishek Bachchan's Robbie would make or break Manmarziyaan.
Vicky is the nut-job whose unpredictability gives sex with him an underground appeal that Rumi wants to return to over and over again, even if it means hurting the gentlemanly and slightly boring Robbie.
How good Manmarziyaan turns out to be, may depend hugely on how well Abhishek Bachchan plays the fool; on how much of a grand flop he'll be willing to take, and how quickly he can then get up, dust his pants, and keep going.
In short, Manmarziyaan's success may depend on Bachchan's ability to find a sense of humanity about an uninteresting chap.
I fear that the romance between Bachchan and Pannu -- both strangers to Kashyap's improvisations -- may turn out to be rather conventional.
Also, any grand acting moments aside, is Bachchan Jr yet to develop a set of small niceties and soft behavioural patterns that he can call his own? That remains to be seen.
There's a moment in the trailer when he goes, 'You make me sick!' and 'Daddy' is clearly making a special appearance there.'
I hope Kashyap doesn't spend his major storytelling time picking on the lowest class of conservatives in a bid to flash his Liberal Pass.
A story about 'everybody doing their best, given their limitations, and yet failing' is a story that holds more value for an artist.
Manmarziyaan's trailer opens with DJ beats and ends with the bleating of a sheep -- a trajectory that is satisfying not in a cinematic sort of way, but in a way that life is: Where you win and you lose also, where you often settle for something less exciting but more steady, something less dreamy but more real.
Cinematic love stories that build unnecessary expectations in people can damage real life relationships in ways one cannot begin to comprehend.
Expecting your love story to follow the Raj-Simran model could very well be the first step to destroying any possibility of having an actual conversation with your lover.
With Manmarziyaan, it is this kind of love story that Kashyap, I think, is out to challenge.
His lovers are too messy for an external force to cause any real harm.
They have no enemies to shoot, and so they take aim at each other.