Aanand L. Rai
What to Expect
Sequels are always a red flag for me, especially when they are not a part of the original film or plan. They usually turn out to be an extension of the original plot, characters, or quite simply, that one joke, but more as an afterthought expecting the audience to react the same way they did the first time. Some of them work intermittently; the others simply fall flat.
Tanu Weds Manu Returns, however, is a surprisingly direct follow-through of the sleeper-hit Tanu Weds Manu, which, though flawed ,was surprisingly entertaining and introduced us to the wild Tanuja Trivedi (Kangana Ranaut; Queen), the mild-mannered Manoj Sharma (R. Madhavan; 13B), and a bunch of colourful supporting characters, among which Pappi (Deepak Dobriyal) was the standout. The sequel takes us forward in the lives of these characters with the same gusto, fervour and the entertaining spirit. The first trailer of the movie wiped out any possible doubts anyone would have had about it and – quite correctly – boldly announced that ‘Return’ wouldn’t be any lesser.
What’s it About?
Tanuja ’Tanu’ Trivedi and Manoj ‘Manu’ Sharma have been married for 4 years now and the initial enthusiasm has settled down to give way to a starkly dim reality. They’re as different as chalk-and-cheese, expect different things from their lives – and each other – and are constantly squabbling over petty issues. They split for a while, for one to return to her wild days and ex-flame and the other to discover someone new, and yet, not entirely. The rest of the movie’s journey brings back some old – and introduces some new – characters on the way with one question burning throughout – will they reconcile? Or is it probably the painful end of a tragedy?
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Director Aanand L. Rai (Raanjhana), clearly knows – and loves – the Hindi heartland, therefore being naturally adapt at creating stories and scenarios out of the ordinary for his creations and their lives. The tone, dialect and situations are always pitch perfect. Those familiar with the demography would find it indulgent, while those unfamiliar are bound to be amused and thoroughly entertained. Tanu Weds Manu Returns, though beginning in The U.K., returns quickly to its roots in Uttar Pradesh and is up to its shenanigans in no time. We are taken back to a wilder Tanu of the yore, who was a bit too outgoing for the liking of the conservative folks around her. This ride with Tanu is fun with an extreme amount of chutzpah added by the smart one-liners, the unending supply of brilliantly timed humor, and the film’s rustic flavor, enhanced largely by it being shot on location. On the other end, we’re introduced to the geminate Kusum ‘Datto’ Sangwan, who although resembling Tanu and being an equal firebrand, has but quite a few differences. She is a “national level” athlete, as she likes to repeat – and sometimes, “state level” – studying at the Delhi University (on a humble sports quota) with a thick Haryanvi accent and tomboyish appearance.
Among the biggest strengths of Tanu Weds Manu Returns is the writing of the characters and – and the risk of repeating myself – the constant tongue-in-cheek humor. The writers do well by identifying the spirit of the land and its people, and incorporate it in their writing of them. So if it is a character from Kanpur, they always like to have the last word and leave with a line of bravado but if it is one from Haryana, then decency be damned; they have to give it out as it is. Writer Himanshu Sharma does exceedingly well in this department and is one of the main reasons why the film never falls into a dull moment. It’s also the actors who make it sound and appear so good (but more on that later). The film also benefits from the seamless edit decisions by Hemal Kothari that keeps the ball rolling, and the somewhat fractured narrative stitched together.
While the dialogues and the actors are all so entertaining, it is ironic that the weakest link of the film is also the writing, which gets too convenient at times, and sometimes quite difficult to accept. When the scene moves to the emotional parts, the writing finds itself lacking, almost abruptly tripping on hurdles about how to tackle them. The film does well to create the differences but surprisingly fails to dwell more on the resolution and falls on the predictable. The buildup is such that the end doesn’t seem to do any justice to it, making you feel that it was all for nothing. At the end you will, most likely, end up asking more questions than getting the answers for the ones created.
Another weak link in the film Krsna’s original songs, which doesn’t quite live up to the first installment’s terrific music. The original music here is quite ordinary and nothing much to write about. Save for the passable Banno and the hummable Bawri by Jyoti Nooran of the Nooran sisters, none of the other tracks are worth remembering.
To Perform or Not to Perform
Just like the first installment, the sequel sparkles with terrific performances from the ensemble. Be it the protagonists or the supporting cast, they are all excellent. Madhavan as the mild mannered doctor who seems to be constantly attracted towards the other extreme is remarkably restrained in his performance. Jimmy Shergill as the ex-flame returns to the role with the same swagger – albeit with a moustache now. New additions like the ever so dependable Mohd. Zeeshan Ayub (No One Killed Jessica) tops the zing further. Eijaz Khan and Swara Bhaskar (Aurangzeb) are appropriate and charming as the Punjabi-Bihari couple and friends to the confused Manu and feisty Tanu respectively.
But among all there are two of the actors who deserve a special mention. The wonderful Deepak Dobriyal as Manu’s goofy friend Pappi is alone worth the price of admission. Dobriyal, once again, gets the wittiest lines and delivers them with sharp timing. He’s a delight to watch and keeps the audience smiling from ear to ear with his bumbling demeanor and honest bearing. He’s a bundle of talent, and rightly given ample screen time to shine, in which he outshines most.
The other actor – quite obviously – is the lead Kangana Ranaut, who – as Tanu and Kusum – owns both the parts with equal ease. It’s incredible how she changes her whole persona along with the hairdo, fake prosthetic teeth and the Haryanvi dialect to authentically match both her characters. It’s like watching two different actors play those parts who just happen to look similar. Kangana is in the form of her life and she doesn’t put a single false note. Suffice to say this is another outstanding performance after her National Award-winning stint in Queen.
Just like its predecessor, Tanu Weds Manu Returns does the same rights right and same wrongs wrong. So if you liked the first film – which most seemed to – chances are you’re going to like this one too. Despite a fractured narrative, unmemorable soundtrack and rushed climax, this one too gets its set of quirky characters, abundant humor, witty one-liners, a swift screenplay and powerhouse performances in place throughout the film’s runtime.
In conclusion, this one has a great first act, a good second and a disappointing finale, yet still stands out for its consistent entertainment and immense likability. Go for it!
Consensus: 3 Stars
Watch the trailer
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