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Movie Review- Tanu Weds Manu Returns

Kangana Ranawat as Datto and As Tanu
Released: 22nd May, 2015
Director: Anand L. Rai
Writer: Himanshu Sharma
Cast: Kangana Ranawat, R. Madhavan, Swara Bhaskar
Rating: 4/5 (Enjoyable Watch, one point lost on unnecessary love angle of Puppy and needless kidnapping plot)
In a very famous TED talk, Elizabeth Gilbert , famed author of 'Eat, Pray, Love' speaks about the artists often crashing under the heavy load of their own earlier success. While the talk is on a different subject regarding how an artist who gets an early success of such stupendous proportion should handle the enormous stress such a success puts on the artist by expecting further greatness from him, by considering Talent as some outside force, beyond the Artist's mortal persona, I bring it up here for a totally different reason. I was trying to understand the phenomenon which Tanu Weds Manu Returns seems to be on the way to make and contrary to the general fate of any follow up work, how it has managed to do the difficult task of exceeding its earlier version. 

Sequels, more often than not, are commercial decisions. Sequels are rarely made because the story grows beyond the point where it was earlier closed. Rather, often sequels are produced when there is a certain degree of sloth, there is no story, an urgent desire to make money and a movie needs to be made. Most stories like most lives run through a common theme and it is not for nothing that someone once wrote that life is nothing but a tale twice told to already vexed ears. What makes a story stand out is its characters. The peculiarity, the uniqueness, the commonness of the characters is what adorns the story which are well written and like precious jewels make them shine in the ordinary dullness of the usual commonplace world. A lazy writer often picks up much loved characters from earlier edition and makes a story.  For this very reason, sequels fails.
For this very reason, Tanu Weds Manu Returns succeeds. The story is an old theme made famous is something plainly stated by Somerset Maugham when he wrote that In every relation there is one person who loves and other who allows the other to be loved. While it does begin with the characters, well-carved Tanuja Tripathi, the strange, ever-Young, and refusing to grown up wife of silent, subtle and unglamorous in looks- Manu Sharma, who after four years of what can be termed as impulsive marriage, is blamed by his colorful, wife for growing like, a ginger. Tanu is desi Madam Bovary of Gustave Flaubert. It is a strange choice of word to describe someone's physicality, but then, it's not for nothing that we call Tanu, unconventional. Hinterlands of UP and Bihar are known for use of unorthodox smilies and proverbs which the director, who had used it in the earlier edition, uses adroitly here. That and his clear knowledge of small nuances the eastern cowbelt, the characters, the smell of the society in eastern UP, early masterly used in his other movie Ranjhana as well, further blooms as the confidence in the canvass that he creates for himself is palpable.  

Madhavan, the ever accommodating Sharmaji, ends up in a mental asylum, on account of the usual marital conflict between ambitious, unyielding force of nature that his wife Tanu is and his own subdued, compromised self which decides it was way too much for him after four years of marriage. The initial charm of wayward behaviour of Tanu of Birhana road of Kanpur fades away. Audacity of youth, however enamoring at an age, becomes obnoxious with the passage of time. The story, in spite of dramatic turns which are oftentimes unbelievable walks on long legs of very, very strong characters and a formidable theme. Tanu leaves Manu in an asylum in London. Feeling emancipated, she reaches back to Kanpur to find that the world has moved on. Raja Awasthy, the lovable gangster, (Jimmy Shergill) who she finds again with an attempt to cling back to her past with the help of entertaining new character, Chintu, is on his way to get married. Tanu is a story of female emancipation gone wrong. She turns up in a towel when her sister's wedding is getting arranged messing the whole thing horribly. She is a kanpuria in London and a Londoner in Kanpur. She flirts shamelessly with both Raja and her new neighbor,  secure in the knowledge that she has a husband, all docile and accommodating, ducked far away in London who she can always go back to. She drinks intermittently, dances in unknown baraats. Tanu epitomises everything which will bring instant condemnation to a man, if only she were a man. She is a woman who simply refuses to grow up.

Sharmaji on the other hand spends larger part of the first half melancholy, lost in the memories of a happy family which ended up unbelievably in an asylum. In between,his old friend, Puppyji (Deepak Dobriyal) whose purpose in life is to assist someone he calls a friend- an adorable, loyal, innocent and yet, maybe Because of it, a failed soul, keeps pushing him to come out of the sadness in which he as an abandoned husband falls. Manu eventually comes out of the squalor of sadness and leaps into love. 
Tanu's look-alike, Ms. kusum Sangwan enters the screen and with her innocent charm melts away Manu's frigid sadness. I must say, that it isn't only Manu Sharma who is charmed by Kusum, the Haryanvi Jat, who studies in Delhi university under sports quota, is a national level athlete, from Jhajjar in Haryana,  and who, well, gives out the pin code but never the phone number to anybody (Phone number main deti koni). Every man in the Theater is besotted by the purity of soul portrayed by Ms Sangwan. Ever since Basanti, the Tonga driver introduced herself in Ramgarh, this is the first time I saw a female character introducing herself in such a memorable fashion. Kusum or Datto as she is affectionately called as we later learn, presumably on account of her frontal teeth which are as pronounced as her child-like honesty and her pride in being an independent, self made young woman is a complex mix of strength and vulnerability, which one falls in love with, admire for strength and want to protect, all at once.

Manu sharma falls in love with the girl, much younger, girl who is Tanu's look alike, much plain looking and muck straight thinking. The charming belle has her own moments of innocent humour. For instance when she sings " I am sentimental' with pronounced Haryanvi accent and asks Manu, "are you getting American accent in my singing."  She, the little child of morrow, doesn't wait for an answer and we go laughing, basking in the beauty of a soul uncorrupted and not yet overwhelmed by the global phenomenon of urbanization. Even the ever-loyal Puppy (Deepak Dobriyal) is vary of middle-aged Sharmaji's Lolita-esque love for much-younger, Datto. He is further propelled to discourage Manu from pursuing this affair once he comes to know that Kusum is betrothed to Raja Awasthy, as audience reels with laughter at the absolute impossible angle coming up. So, Raja, the endearing, small-time gangster and part time contractor finds himself once again against Manu Sharma.  
The insane turns also include a surprising acceptance of the relationship of Manu and Datto by latter's elder brother, living in a small DDA flat and supporting his sister through her education and her choices. 

Manu's wedding is all but organised in Jhajjar with Datto, facilitated by well-argued position of her brother about female infanticide and caste issues in the country-side infamous for both. The beauty of the story is that the message is not built into story or vice-versa. It is spoken through the character with the true importance and urgency which the character represents. Tanu goes there, to regain what she still believes she deserves, and no one but she deserves. Every relation needs constant work and many a relations fade away simply because we throw ourselves in self-destructive complacency. Nothing is given in this world and sense of entitlement is nothing but foolishness. We earn a relation through hard work, love, commitment and some luck and we need to keep earning it. There is a Tanu in everyone of us who keeps on faltering and then we find reasons of failure in the other person. Tanu's sense of entitlement makes her mock Manu even at this point when she says, "hum Zara bewafa kya hue, Sharmaji, Aap to badchalan ho Gaye ". Her delusion, her sense of entitlement persists till the very end, when Manu finds himself at that very edge where past breaks free from the present. What Sharmaji eventually does is for audience to go and watch. But for most of us, it is Datto that we root for. She is an absolute show stealer as she brilliantly retorts to Tanu, with all her British accents and haughtiness of a foreign-return fashionista, a 'MyChoice' signature girl with a rebuke that while in spite of all her pretense of emancipation and being a forward looking woman, Tanu can't even buy her on clothes on her own, forget raising and supporting, or even having her kids, so lost she is in her own ambitions and desires. Sharmaji may decide whatever Sharmaji may desire, but Datto wins the day for most audience. Never has earlier a girl in unglamorous sports pants and loose fitting Reebok Tees looked so downright lovable and vulnerable in a movie and yet so strong. It goes entirely to the credit of Kangana Ranawat  to display such a complex mix of strength and vulnerability, of a realist and dreamer, in Datto. It hardly matters that Tanu refers to her as Rebuke against original Reebok. The movies is great watch with a story full of unbelievable incidents, even if thoroughly enjoyable, made upextraordinarily believable characters. You have time-tested Swara Bhaskar with her charming Bihari tilt of language as she tells Tanu, "Paglaa gayi ho kya." It is an eclectic mix of absolutely watchable and brilliantly-played, believable characters which adds significantly to the value of the movie.
I came back happier watching the movie, muttering all power to Datto and hopefully so will you. I guess, going back to from where I began this review, it is this newly introduced character of Datto which saves the Sequel from the usual fate of sequels, and the fond affection with which not only this character is created, but it is developed and played. Datto has made the unfashionable dresses and unconventional thoughts, not to mention, a hairstyle which we cannot call anything but boycut (well, that is the term I know, being myself much fashionably-challenged) hair, an object to be cheered for, loved and affectionately protected.


Manish Purohit said…
Wonderfully written review, aptly capturing the essence of the movie :)

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