Kanpur wali ‘teekhi mirch’ Tanu is back. So is Manu, the ‘bheegi billi’ from London. Four years back, in ‘Tanu Weds Manu’, they met, sparred, and mated. Now, they are still together, but the marriage has become more a rattle of guns than a bed of roses.
Will the strife cause permanent fissures, or is it just a temporary fork in the road? Tanu and Manu step apart to see what they see, and we get a sequel which is better than the original.
This time around Rai invests more in his characters, and he wins the sweepstakes just with his lead actress. Tanu’s fieriness gets more heft, as the girl who is not ready to be woman, the woman who wants to be girl again. She is a bundle of contradictory impulses, a spitfire in one moment, a soft ball of mush in the other. And Kangana Ranaut plays it beautifully, mixing up the familiar with the new.
Delivering freshness is always the challenge in a sequel. We’ve met the principal characters before. R Madhavan is still effectively restrained as Manu, who is still the sedate guy he used to be, but this time given a little more to do, especially after he bumps into a Tanu look-alike Datto (Kangana Ranauat, in a double role).
Tanu, meanwhile, is back doing what she does best: rousing tempers, creating a ruckus, being a pest: what saves her, and the film, which keeps veering off to give its leading lady too many chances to play the curly-haired wild child, is that she can’t quite hide her hurt and the pain.
Datto is the ‘pixie-cut’ sporty Haryanvi lass in tracks-and-tees, accompanied by a heavy Jat accent, and heavy-set relatives. She is as different from Tanu as she can be, and yet, something about her tugs at Manu, and the film takes an unexpected direction from here on.
And that brings us to the less satisfactory aspect of the film. The plot, too crowded for its own good, is more a series of contrivances than an organically grown whole, and much of it wants to be played for laughs. There are some really funny lines too which feel true, but many of them are thrown away just for effect. And yes, some of what Tanu does, and says, is very clearly done to shock: you hear the word ‘jhand’, and you gasp and you laugh.
That takes away from the charm of this kind of film which is brave enough to give us characters that are not instantly likeable, and can be downright annoying. Tanu is irritatingly capricious: she wants to be able to keep changing her mind, and it’s always someone else’s responsibility to sort out the mess. Datto is cute and naïve, and sometimes speaks so thickly you can barely understand her.
Manu’s best friend Pappi (Deepak Dobriyal, excellent) gets the most dispensable ‘dilwale-dulhaniya-lene-jayenege’ strand in the film, but manages to generate wholesale laughter. Tanu’s former beau Raja (Jimmy Shergill) is the fly in the ointment again, and you want him to have a whole story of his own. Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub shows up as a canny fellow who develops feelings for Tanu, and has a couple of uproarious moments: these are actors enjoying their parts, and making the film enjoyable for us.
That is what ‘Tanu Weds Manu Returns’ is, ultimately, a film that is enjoyable despite its occasional slides into message-y territory: Rajesh Sharma, as the ‘progressive’ brother of Datto, gets to deliver a speech on female empowerment; Swara Bhaskar has a nice alive bit about a woman making a tough choice, though you do wish it didn’t have to come down to a male acceptance of it. And for a girl who wants everything on her own terms, Tanu’s desperate desire for, and succumbing to, a conventional end feels like it was done to up the feel-good factor.
But these things do not weigh things down because we are too busy watching an actress stride through its ups and downs, earning each scene, and the film. I would buy a ticket for Kangana Ranaut.
Star Cast: Kangana Ranaut, R. Madhavan, Deepak Dobriyal, Jimmy Shergill, Rajesh Sharma, Swara Bhaskar, Mohammad Zeeshan Ayub, Rajendra Gupta, Navnee Parihar, Eizaj Khan, K K Raina
Director: Aanand L Rai
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines