What Kangana's Tanu Weds Manu Returns says: Bollywood should get over Sheilas and Munnis

Piyasree Dasgupta

May 26, 2015 12:59:32 IST

Then Kangana Ranaut was stripped off any markers of 'sexy' - as Bollywood knows it - and stuffed in loose track pants and running tees. Her mop of curls was replaced with what is actually referred to as 'boy cut' in middle class Indian homes and is many little girls' nightmare-come-true in summers. Her teeth were made to look slightly big, you know, the kind that leads to the birth of 'airbrushing'. However, if you can find one person who has watched the Tanu Weds Manu Returns and hasn't come out feeling slightly besotted with Kusum (one of the two characters played by Ranaut),  I'll find you a vada pav which doesn't hate Shobhaa De.

According to Box Office India, Tanu Weds Manu Returns is all set become this year's first 'superhit'. It has collected more than Rs 21 crore in its first weekend and is most likely to only rake in more. If you are not one of those who feel murderous towards humanity when people hoot and clap in the theatres, you must have noticed while watching the film the loudest cheers came after a bunch of Kusum's dialogues. It was like watching at anti-Dabangg film in an ambience associated with  Salman Khan.

So here's what happened in line: a film with the most 'anti-Bollywood' heroine is racing to become one of the biggest grossers of the year.

Perhaps, it won't be much of an indulgence if all the feminists out there raised a mid-day toast to the idea of Bollywood trying to give up its pubescent teen behaviour.

What Kanganas Tanu Weds Manu Returns says: Bollywood should get over Sheilas and Munnis

Deepika Padukone in Piku and Kangana Ranaut in Tanu Weds Manu Returns.

Yes, the number of films peddling the idea that women are just good looking creatures whose brains must have gotten gutted due to the excessive use of the blow drier on their heads, far outnumber the Kusums of the world. However, given that for the longest time, the place of a 'successful' Bollywood heroine was always inside a sheer chiffon and  around the macho hero on the dance floor, a Tanu Weds Manu Returns, or a Piku is welcome.

A couple of weeks before Tanu Weds Manu Returns burst into our lives, we were treated to Piku. A film minus a stereotypical romantic track between a hero and a heroine, that has Padukone in kurtas and saris, and whose 'hero' is a 70-year-old man playing his age as a constipated, Bengali father. Piku, according to Box Office India, has done extremely well at the box office, making over Rs 22 cores in the second week following its release.

Not long ago, the moment the film's leading lady dumped the sheer-sequin routine for a film, the film would be slotted as an 'art film' and mostly left to a select group of our population to praise and discuss. Or it would be inevitably labelled the 'comeback' film of an actress who had seen raging popularity in the past playing the girlfriend-cum-dancer-cum-eye-candy characters in films. Like what Mardaani was for Rani Mukherjee or Gulaab Gang for Madhuri Dixit. Even if they did such roles, the actresses were not the ones propping the films on their shoulders and the films were never the kind of mass entertainers, where you'd be disappointed if you didn't get a ticket for on the opening weekend. Case in point Kareena Kapoor in Dev or Chameli. 

No one would earlier shell out Rs 500 to watch a film whose 'hero' is a woman, especially one who doesn't leave your jaw hanging as she sprints across the Alps in stilettos. This weekend when Tanu Weds Manu Returns released, tickets were priced at Rs 500 at PVR theatres in Mumbai over the weekend, the same amount you've had to shell out while watching Shah Rukh's Chennai Express at the multiplex two years ago.  It was also unlikely you'd get a ticket for a prime time show unless you had booked way in advance, much like in the case of Deepika Padukone's Piku when it released.

Apart from the fact that Piku and Tanu Weds Manu Returns make resolved Bollywood haters look upon the industry with some affection, the films reveal the big truth about the contemporary Indian audience - that they can deal with a film that makes sense and has a woman slip into shoes traditionally reserved for a man.

This turns the spotlight on the industry's annoying refusal to take up such projects with more resolve and spirit. It is now obvious that a Bollywood fan likes a kickass woman as much as he/she loves a kickass man. In fact, the biggest takeaway from Priyanka Chopra's Mary Kom racing to the Rs 100 crore club, was the fact that Indians turned up in hordes to watch a film which had a woman in the lead, not batting her eyelids back at the men in the audience and wasn't preoccupied showing off her toned abs or salsa moves. From Mary Kom and Queen to Piku and Tanu Weds Manu Returns, the films and the characters the woman played showed us that men playing sidekicks don't immediately kill a Hindi film's shot at being a blockbuster.

A decade back, a film was synonymous with the male lead. For example, you might have fallen in love with Kajol a hundred times over in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, but it always was a 'Shah Rukh Khan film'. Very few will argue with the fact that, in dinner debates over weekend plans Piku comes up as a "Deepika Padukone film" as much as a "Amitabh Bachchan film". And Tanu Weds Manu Returns is only referred to as a 'Kangana Ranaut film'.

We can only sit back and hope that the ghosts of the doormat women that Padukone and Ranaut played in the past, don't come back to haunt their careers again.

Updated Date: May 26, 2015 13:06:58 IST