Two queens and an ace (of a script) up their sleeve!
Tanu Weds Manu Returns
Director: Anand L Rai
Actors: Kangana Ranaut, R Madhavan
Pretty much all romances or romantic comedies (rom-coms) end with the girl getting together with the boy finally. Do movies tell us what happens thereafter? The joke is they do. It’s called a porn film!
More plausibly, the Raj and Simrans of the world get married. Few years hence, like most married couples, they probably start dealing with each others’ natural idiosyncrasies as the heady fragrance of love begins to wear off. Now who the hell wants to watch that picture for escapist entertainment? Well, this movie deals with precisely that.
This sequel starts off four years after Tanu (thoroughly boisterous) wed Manu (Madhavan; gently under-stated) in the first part of this film that was a full-on desi, arranged-marriage round-robin rom-com. The couple, now settled in London, has had it with each other since. They don’t have kids, which makes things simpler.
In less conservative societies, instant separation would be an easy option. According to his father, Manu has three choices before him. He could stay on in the marriage still, as most do. He could remain alone for the rest of his life, if he likes. Or he could find another woman. But what are the chances that (second) marriage would turn out any differently? This is a common argument made against divorces in general. This film is set in small-town India—like Anand L Rai’s realistically placed, majestically picturised prequel.
Raanjhanaa (2013), the film that Rai directed after Tanu Weds Manu (2011), was equally remarkably set in Banaras. It was an excuse to bring back on screen the popular ‘80s/’90s theme of the romantic hero being the demented yet much loved stalker of the street. I found it quite hard to hajam. I’m told audiences adored Dhanush in the lead role.
This film returns to another old chestnut of popular Hindi cinema—the “double role”. And yes, since you must know, here’s the choice that the husband Manu decides to finally exercise, given that his marriage isn’t working anymore. He falls for another woman, who looks exactly like his current wife.
This new character Datto is a “sports quota” Delhi University student from a Haryanvi village. For her, men are either brothers or competition (on the sports field). Tanu on the other hand plays the field (of another kind). She is more the sensuous type. Looks apart (they even share the same mole below the jawline, which is often concealed, and sometimes not), the two lead characters are nothing like each other.
Almost like a chameleon, Kangana Ranaut plays the double role as if she was part of two separate movies. Undoubtedly she’s up for massive acclaim this time on again. Her part in Queen had touched a certain unknown raw nerve, especially among female audiences, to make it the most talked about performance of 2014. She had played a surprisingly naïve middleclass Delhi girl who goes off alone on a maiden trip to Europe.
The character Datto here is infinitely more earthy and believable. As is the film that perfectly captures the sounds and smell of north India in the winters. We travel to a Haryana village riven by caste politics, besides Chamanganj in Kanpur, where everyone pokes their nose into each others’ lives, and the idyllic campus of Delhi’s Ramjas college.
The authenticity in the writing (Himanshu Sharma) is perhaps the reason practically all the actors in the film (most notably Deepak Dobriyal) leave a mark. The wit and repartee is absolutely top class.
Is this film about post-marriage issues a mainstream escapist fantasy still? Oh yes. It’s a complete mad-cap, rom-com romp. Manu starts off being diagnosed as clinically insane.
The more real story belongs to his father, who lives in a home with his perennially nagging wife as the background score. The old man cracks husband-wife jokes. It is the most popular genre of humour in India. Observations and asides like these—and there are so many—lift this film to an altogether another level. I haven’t laughed so much in a while.