When Tanu Weds Manu released in 2011, it was as refreshing as switching sips of champagne for shots of desi liquor. The story of the coming together of a raucous foul-mouthed beauty from Kanpur (Kangana Ranaut) and a bashful doctor residing in London (R. Madhavan), who accept each others perceived flaws was a critical and commercial success. While not as neatly crafted as its predecessor, Tanu Weds Manu Returns is a highly enjoyable film with excellent performances, hilarious one liners, and chart-topping music.
Four years into their marriage, Tanu and Manu’s rocky relationship frustrates them. Tanu yearns for the passion and enthusiasm synonymous to her with love, while Manu searches for the peace and comfort he thought marriage would provide. The couple explode in anger during a session with psychologists. The emotional outburst lands Manu in a mental asylum, making room for Tanu to return to her Kanpuria roots and find herself.
Tanu meets up with ex-boyfriend Raja Awasthi (Jimmy Shergill), who remains unmarried and thus a possible replacement for Manu. Meanwhile, Manu’s pal Pappi (Deepak Dobrial) brings the humiliated husband to New Delhi, where Manu spots his wife playing college level sports. Convinced he’s found the Tanu he knew before marriage, Manu soon learns the top-notch Haryanvi athlete isn’t his wife, but a lookalike named Kusum.
While Manu falls for Kusum, Raja tries to convince Tanu he’s the one for her. Once Tanu and Manu feel comfortable with letting go of each other, circumstances reunite them and make the possibility of divorce both liberating and unbearable to them.
Acting: To describe Kangana Ranaut as brilliant would be an understatement. The film belongs to this gifted artist and is an excellent follow-up to her smashing performance in last year’s Queen. Whether it’s the Indo-chic wearing, smart talking Tanu or the hockey stick wielding tomboy Kusum, Ranaut does full justice to both characters without hamming it up. After years of watching heroines sport bloodshot eyes in emotional scenes courtesy of glycerin, it’s a welcome change to see Ranaut’s clear eyes effortlessly filling with up tears. Her flawless delivery of Kusum’s Haryanvi dialogues deserves special mention.
Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub who plays Chintu the paying guest who falls in love with Tanu, performs with poise and panache, adding life to every scene in which he appears. Rajesh Sharma is fantastic as Kusum’s brother and in one particular scene does a marvelous job.
Editing: The narrative is crisp and the back and forth between Tanu and Manu’s tracks is managed very well. Only two hours in length, the film packs in the classic ingredients of a masala entertainer in a tidy parcel.
Music: “Banno Tera Swagger” will easily become a 2015 anthem, playing at every wedding and festivity. The revamped folk classic is well choreographed and beautifully shot, while songs like “Move On” and “Ghani Bawri” bode well with the situations in which they’re presented.
Screenplay: The culture, language and idiosyncrasies of Uttar Pradesh and Haryana are nicely captured and add much flavor. Rib-tickling one liners come one after the other and characters are interesting and colorful. The movie’s first half is exceptional and alone is worth the price of admission.
Reasoning and Resolution: Many questions remain either unanswered or poorly explained. Are Tanu and Manu truly in love, or are they drawn to each other out of habit? Is Kusum’s Tanu-like appearance really reason enough for Manu to contemplate marriage with her? Must couples somehow tolerate each other in the name of marriage, or can they unconditionally love each other? The laundry list of complaints Tanu and Manu list in the first few minutes of the film remain unexplored, and in fact, leaves the door wide open for a third installment.
Confusing Messages: It’s not always easy to decide whether or not Aanand L. Rai is a director with progressive vision. Kusum’s brother fights for his sister’s right to marry a man of her choice, while earlier in the film Manu insinuates he was showing character by not raping Tanu while she was passed out.
Tanu voices her resentment against men confusing politeness from women as flirting, but later Pappi abducts a friend on her wedding night (with Kusum’s help, no less!), mistaking conversation over WhatsApp as love. Rai’s Tanu and Kusum are bold, determined women in a male-dominated culture, but more than a few uncomfortable double entendres are shown, especially while middle-aged Manu gazes at college-going Kusum.
Manu: While the Manu in the previous film was too shy to express his feelings but mustered courage when it mattered, this version is anything but improved. There’s no question of R. Madhavan being a talented artist, as he has proven himself in Hindi and Tamil cinema multiple times. But it’s easy to surmise Manu wasn’t given much of a backbone this time so Tanu, and especially Kusum, could shine.
Pappi: Talented Dobrial was fantastic as Pappi in TWM but goes over-the-top in the sequel. Pappi’s lines are hilarious but his acting crosses the line between comedic character and caricature. The actor needed to be reigned-in during many scenes.
The Second Half: TWMR suffers from the infamous “curse of the second half”. Subplots are subpar and the reasoning behind choices made by characters is flimsy and confusing. The ray of light post intermission is the delightful Kusum, whose self-assurance is as captivating as the lovely freckles on her face.
While not as fresh in content nor as well written as Tanu Weds Manu, the sequel is a worthy follow-up and provides much entertainment. Ranaut’s star continues to rise as she yet again displays acting chops other leading ladies cannot challenge. This imperfect film is a perfect watch with plenty of talent, laughs, and swag.