Movie Review: “Tanu Weds Manu” – cinematic equivalent of a car wreck

23 May, 2015 1:45 pm

MUMBAI – Director Aanand L Rai seems to believe in the adage “Well begun is half done.” With both “Tanu Weds Manu” (2011) and its sequel, Rai starts with a great idea, some sparkling dialogue and interesting characters. But what you get in “Tanu Weds Manu Returns” is the cinematic equivalent of a car wreck.

The first film ended with the unlikely union of Manoj Sharma (R Madhavan) and Tanuja (Kangana Ranaut). Four years later, Manu still has the personality of a block of wood while Tanu appears to have become more dramatic. The film begins with the two in front of a mental asylum – one that looks like it’s straight out of “Shutter Island” – complaining to a group of psychiatrists about their marriage.

This “evaluation” results in Manu being put in chains at the asylum, while Tanu walks out, lounges around her house and drinks wine as though nothing has happened. The loopholes begin with this sequence. Rai requires his audience to suspend their disbelief, but he and co-writer Himanshu Sharma make up for the lack of logic with some well-written, well-observed characters, and some hilarious lines.

Humour is what keeps “Tanu Weds Manu Returns” afloat, and helps you ignore Manu falling for a Tanu lookalike hours after he files for divorce. What seems unfathomable is Kusum, Tanu’s doppelganger and a feisty athlete from Delhi, falling right back for Manu in spite of his wooden personality and complete lack of charm. Kusum is the anti-Tanu — she is sorted, smart and calls a spade a spade.

Tanu, on the other hand, goes back to her old ways in Kanpur in northern India, flirting with her former lovers, and finding new admirers as she sashays down narrow alleys. But when news of her husband’s impending marriage to Kusum reaches her ears, all hell breaks loose. Somehow the main cast and a few others land in Jhajjar, a small town in Haryana and the site of Kusum and Manu’s nuptials.

The plot is convoluted and jam-packed, just like the first film, but Rai gets in some lovely moments. There is a hilarious sequence where a Punjabi wedding celebration involves the Gujarati dance Garba, and another one where the classic Geeta Dutt number “Ja ja Bewafa” plays in the background during one of Tanu’s drunken strolls at midnight.

But “Tanu Weds Manu Returns” falls flat because Rai does not take the film to its logical ending. It is obvious from the first scene that Tanu and Manu are a toxic combination, a couple who can never be compatible. Rai doesn’t make a case for them and their love story throughout the film. Yet he doesn’t have the courage to end it. Rai cops out, and thus does his film and characters a great disservice.

Kangana Ranaut walks away with the entire film, playing both Tanu and Kusum with panache, in what is probably the defining female performance of 2015 (in a year already filled with many). Yet, even she cannot salvage this film in the end. Half done, in this case, is just half-baked and certainly not fit to be consumed. –Reuters


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