That’s two films in back to back weeks celebrating Geeta Dutt. We had the cursed Bombay Velvet last week – everyone’s favorite punching bag – in which Rosie (Anushka Sharma) was described as possessing Geeta Dutt like vocal abilities. In Anand L. Rai’s sequel to the hit Tanu Weds Manu, we have Tanu (Kangana Ranaut) wandering (and this comes soon after the other Kangana’s Banno Tera Swagger Lage Sexy) around in the middle of the night over Ja Ja Ja Bewafa in the background and a glass of whiskey in hand after Manu (R Madhavan) makes the most assured decision of his both the films put together. Only this time it is rejection. There was always an old world charm (or everything wrong with that type) to Manu’s love story and therefore the film begins with Sun Saiba Sun over what is their wedding video. But for the first time Tanu gets a song with all the feels.
This was essentially the problem with the first film too. There was incredible levels of inactivity from Manu Sharma that we can only choose not to root for him. Sometimes the script is just static. Of course the main protagonist here is Tanu and we would like to root for her even if she is the beautifully flawed one, the one with all the zest and more of a real person. This and the prequel are both Kangana’s films. But both times the film disappointingly services only Manu’s story for the most part. As a person and as the character on paper, Manu Sharma is too stone cold for us to care in any capacity. Tanu has always been the doer. We start here – after 4 years of not so great marriage between the two – when Manu and Tanu visit an asylum to meet with doctors where the former claims his wife possibly suffers from bipolar disorder. The scene is laughably staged and even the doctor’s clinic looks like some torture chamber deep under the ground.
One of the other reasons the prequel did not work was we could never be convinced of this relationship. This was bound to be a disaster. But either with the benefit of hindsight or just tempted to take a business decision (Tanu Weds Manu was a huge hit) Anand L. Rai decided to come up with the sequel. Without evidence for the former, the reason is most probably the latter. Because a more interesting movie would have been to explore those four years of marriage. What did Tanu do? How did she learn to live in London (Queen hangover notwithstanding)? How was their daily life? But we get none of this. We straight up get the same film but with a couple of twists, some contrived, added in. The latter part of the film is particularly a chore to sit through as we once again see the passive Manu hilariously trying on suits and going on horse rides much to the consternation of people around him. It soon degenerates into Roger Ebert’s version of the Idiot Plot. People need to talk and they don’t. Status quo continues because some people do not have the full information or are unwilling to pour their heart out even when time is running out. You’d like to shake Manu Sharma and yell at him, “What’s wrong with you?” And the problem is you may not be out of line doing it after the ending of the film too.
The good thing and the bad thing about Tanu Weds Menu Returns is that we get two Kanganas. It’s good because you can make one whole movie with just Kusum Sangwan, the Haryanvi spouting national level athlete who resembles Tanu. Manu is so far gone on his feelings for Tanu (or so he thinks) that he wastes no time in stalking Kusum after chancing upon her. There is even a scene where Manu tries to express his second love to Kusum and ends up calling her Tanu. That’s where your Idiot Plot takes shape. As good as Kusum is we sadly get very little of Tanu through the second act of the film. The first is filled with so much of Kangana-isms that they carry the film all by themselves. There are many singular great lines in this portion. Like when Tanu says, “Adrak ban gaya hai yeh aadmi..kahin se bhi bad raha hai”. This is one for the ages. Or the scene where she meets Raja Awasthi (Jimmy Shergill) for the first time since her return. Their exchange is wonderful and their equation particularly hits home when Raja says, “tumse mann hata diya to bhagwan mein laga liye”. We needed more of this Tanu dealing with post-Manu life in India but we hardly get those. We get a fleeting moment of what that movie would have been like when Tanu finds Chintu (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub) and uses him as his chauffeur. After all Chintu is the Shri Krishna of this whole Idiot Plot. But Chintu comes across as the perfect foil for Tanu. When he has to deal with Raja Awasthi, he is essentially punching above his weight but he is at least punching. Now that’s a movie waiting to be made. And what an excellent performer Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub is.
(An edited version of this was published in The New Indian Express)