Tanu Weds Manu Returns: Kangana Ranaut is brilliant in half-good sequel starring Madhavan
Director Anand L Rai’s filmmaking style is obvious from his filmography – he makes stories that ‘romanticize’ love.
A crowd pleaser is a film that induces seeti and taali from the audience, making sure they go back home feeling they’ve spent their money on something cheerful. One way to do this is to flesh out a story with an unusual conflict and resolve that conflict in ways that surprise the audience, while also shoehorning a social message into the film in the process. This is difficult to do and as a result, rare. Queen belonged to this rare breed of films.
Another way to make a crowd pleaser is to aim for the lowest common denominator, establish an unusual conflict and resolve it using unbelievable contrivances, while dishing out crackling dialogues, soap-opera style dramatic beats and social messages. Tanu Weds Manu Returns is one of these films.
Director Anand L Rai’s filmmaking style is obvious from his filmography – he makes stories that ‘romanticize’ love, which means they’re full of tropes and (like love itself) don’t make much sense. This doesn’t mean Tanu Weds Manu Returns is without promise.
That Tanu Weds Manu got a sequel is surprising enough, but to have a sequel with an interesting plot is even better. Four years after the events of the first film, Tanu (Kangana Ranaut) and Manu (Madhavan) are still in London, but are now a bickering couple. They both have huge egos and can’t pass a single day without breaking into a massive fight.
Illogical Thing #1 appears right in the opening scene, in which Tanu and Manu go to a British mental asylum and discuss their problems with Hindi-speaking psychiatrists. By the end of their session, Manu is shouting at Tanu and is locked up in the asylum for violent behaviour.
Illogical Thing #2 arrives soon after. Tanu leaves Manu behind in the asylum and goes back to India to unleash the full power of her spoilt-child image by walking around in just a towel and flirting with a few people. At home in Kanpur, the men are all falling for Tanu. One of the folks who has the hots for her is Chintu (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub), who is a squatter and (conveniently) a lawyer and sends Tanu’s divorce papers to Manu.
Meanwhile, Manu is overcome with placid rage and also returns to India, but discovers Kusum, a lookalike of Tanu, and immediately falls for her.
At this point, Tanu Weds Manu Returns is flying – Kusum speaks in a hilarious, rapid-fire Haryanvi accent and kicks copious amounts of a** with her hockey stick. There are a couple of laugh-out-loud exchanges between Manu and Kusum, and some interesting and funny commentary on the institution of marriage. In the film’s best scene, while Manu’s mother bickers non stop, his father calmly explains to him the inevitability of fights in a marriage, the good natured but hormonal nature of women, and the elixir to handling them with love when they blow their fuse.
Individually there are a few scenes that are well done in Tanu Weds Manu Returns, but the sum of the film’s parts is a gangly machine that falls apart in the second half. The inner workings of the lookalike plot vehicle is never explored much. The concept is arcane - Manu finds Kusum attractive because she looks exactly like Tanu, but she doesn’t have Tanu’s annoying qualities. Had the story stuck to exploring this aspect of the triangle, it could have been a classic. Unfortunately, in the second half, the story diverts from this and goes into a weird kidnapping subplot that is so contrived that it exists solely to make a few people arrive at the dramatic ending scene.
Moreover, the escalation of Manu’s feelings for Kusum and his actions become increasingly ludicrous. It’s fine when a teenager is trying to make his or her significant other jealous by hanging out with another ‘hot’ person, but when 40-year-olds do so, it’s ridiculous and also improbable.
There are also some seriously ham-fisted attempts at social commentary – ranging from a speech at a crowd on women empowerment and Punju men’s difficulty in acceptance of in vitro fertilization. These stick out like sore thumbs and when they’re unleashed, it’s almost as though they belong in another movie.
But the real draw of Tanu Weds Manu Returns is that you get two Kangana Ranauts to entertain you, and she delivers in a huge way. Both her avatars are so likeable you (almost) forget the gaffes of the film. The others in the cast don’t fare as well. The usually fantastic Deepak Dobriyal is needlessly over the top, while Madhavan doesn’t emote much apart from sullenness. Ayyub does his best to salvage a rather inconsistent character, while Jimmy Shergil seems at ease with the lack of logic around the film. There are quite a few throwaway one-liners to keep things chugging along, so full credit to writer Himanshu Sharma.
The biggest takeaway from Tanu Weds Manu Returns is that there has to be some sort of a demon that enters the minds of filmmakers and turns the second half of their movies into a horrific mess. Instead of the incredible devices that fill the second half, the film would have benefitted with some exorcism and an injection of logic.
As of now, Tanu Weds Manu Returns is half a good movie, and half a dunderhead. If you consider both halves of this movie like a couple, then one of them surely needed to give some love and affection to the other before the fuse blew.
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