Love and marriages never go out of fashion. That is why a successful romantic comedy made in 2011 still finds takers in 2014. So much so that even without a mainstream Bollywood superstar, Tanu Weds Manu Returns has got the cinema aisles filling and the ticket prices rocketing. For, the sentiment of love can always be sold. Anaand Rai offers a relatively entertaining product on the shelf with a short expiry date and limited features.
Tanu Weds Manu Returns revolves around the aftermath of a 4 year long marriage between Tanuja Trivedi (Kangana Ranaut) and Manoj Sharma (R. Madhavan) that ends up in the daily drudgery of monotony and boredom. A separation ensues and each spouse lands up broiling parallel love plots involving Kusum (Kangana Ranaut), Raja Awasthi (Jimmy Shergill) and Chintu (Mohammed Ayyub). Marriage dominates the plot, theme and setting as the film explores the marital concerns of minor characters like Payal (Swara Bhaskar) and Pappi (Deepak Dobriyal). Predictably, the climax is drawn around the saat pheras and confronting the film industry’s favourite question: To marry or not to marry.
The movie has three strengths: the popularity of its precedent Tanu Weds Manu (2011), interesting characters and the captured nuances of Indian marriages. The established success of the prequel assures the first weekend box office collection. Once inside the theatres, the novelty of a double role and a diametrically opposite character of Kusum to the main lead Tanuja acts as a fine hook. Not only has the writer created two distant shades of characters but make-up and costume has ensured that the existence of a lookalike becomes a believable element of the plot.
However, this is not the classic representation of the docile Sita and the daring Gita. Neither is it the representation of the conventional Tina and feminine and the tomboyish Anjali. For in the significant face off scene between Tanu and Kusum, the latter asserts her self-identity, it is on the basis of her education and sports skills. But more importantly, Kusum is lent a feminine (and therefore real) touch not through long hair and a saree but with the conviction that she would not be able to only give birth to her children but also take care of them without a man.
What also makes these two characters endearing and their actions courageous is their small town origin and context. Thus, to make an appearance for an arranged marriage meeting wrapped merely in a towel, in a drunken state and invalidate the basis of marriage itself is not a bold but a blasphemous scene. And that is what makes it beautiful. At the same time, the pathos that one feels for Tanu at this point in time cannot be missed either. On the other hand, the confrontation scene between Kusum and her brother is very powerful for it exposes the real life issues of caste, gender discrimination and violence prevalent in the country.
While the film delineates issues and problems very well with a constant touch of humor, the problem arises with the manner in which they decide to resolve those issues. One perfunctory speech by the younger brother (Rajesh Sharma) to enlighten the orthodoxy of their attitudes seems lukewarm. The problem with problem-solving persists even in the larger plot of the film. For, until the intermission, the audience is amused, entertained and curious. However, once the script spirals towards a possible solution to the separation between Tanu and Manu, the script almost disappears. There are a string of mediocre, poorly written scenes in the weddings of three women- Komal, Manju and Kusum. The jokes become forced, the dialogues insipid, the plot predictable, the actions cliché. The audience cannot distinguish one wedding from another.
What is worse is the strong characterization of the two women characters (for Manu disappointingly comes across as a mere pawn in the hands of two seasoned chess players Tanu and Kusum) that deteriorates progressively. No one can understand the logic of Tanu’s sacrificial act of signing the divorce papers while she still wants to woo her husband back. No one understand the sudden shift in the character of Raja who in the previous film had fielded with guns at Tanu’s wedding and is now carrying gas cylinders and mending broken marriages. No one can understand why Manu makes one choice and then the other and then another. No one understands the about turn that Kusum takes.
All in all, if this wedding sends an invitation, one should RSVP in case your calendar is not productively occupied otherwise. Else you can enjoy AIB’s Honest Wedding from the comfort of your homes.