Monday, May 25, 2015

"Repeating a mistake": Tanu Weds Manu Returns

In my post on the first entry in this series, "Who cares if Tanu Weds Manu?," I wrote that "Himanshu Sharma's script doesn't...give us any long-term hope for this couple. I found myself thinking 'This is such a bad idea' throughout the final Tanu-Manu wedding scene—not exactly the note on which you want to end a romantic comedy."

It must also have occurred to Sharma—too late—that his main couple are mismatched, because in the very first scene of Tanu Weds Manu Returns (2015) they are going to a marriage counseling session.

[Aside: The problems of Tanu Weds Manu Returns (2015) begin with its inelegant title. Not to draw any parallels to the delightful William Powell-Myrna Loy Thin Man films—there are no terms of comparison—but what was wrong with After Tanu Weds Manu?]

The sequel takes place four years after the events in the first movie, and the couple have discovered for themselves what should have been apparent much earlier: they have nothing in common. Tanu (a compelling Kangana Ranaut) is bored with Manu and their life in a London suburb, and Manu (R. Madhavan) finds Tanu and her boredom to be deeply irritating.

But in the first of a series of improbabilities, their counseling session takes place at a mental asylum that looks like a depiction of Bedlam out a Gothic novel. And when Manu raises his voice during the session, in rush burly attendants to grab him and haul him away for involuntary committal.

Tanu heads back to her family in India, wipes off her sindoor, removes her marriage bangles, and renews her acquaintance with her former boyfriend Raja (Jimmy Shergill). There's still clearly strong affection between the two, but Raja is now engaged to another woman. Tanu consoles herself with the opportunistic Chintu (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub), who hopes, vainly, that flirting and motorbike rides will lead to something more.

Eventually Manu is released and returns to his parents' home in Delhi. While there he spots a young college student who, haircut aside, looks a lot like Tanu: she is Kusum (Kangana in a double role), who is attending Delhi University on an athletic scholarship. Manu and his grating buddy Pappi (Deepak Dobriyal) begin following her around the city, and in time-honored fashion Kusum's annoyance turns to love. What girl wouldn't fall head over heels with a stalker who is obsessed by her resemblance to his ex-wife?

Manu and Kusum plan to wed, but it turns out that in order to marry Manu, Kusum will have to tell her family that she is breaking the engagement they've arranged to another man: who else but Raja? And when Raja and Tanu discover the turn events are taking, they decide to crash the wedding festivities:

The music is by Krsna Solo with lyrics by Raj Shekhar; the playback singer of "Ghani Bawri" is Jyoti Nooran.

Contrivances in comedy work when they heighten the possibilities for farce. But in Tanu Weds Manu Returns, the comedic madness never reaches an inspired level, while the all-too-apparent plot absurdities prevented me from investing the self-inflicted dilemmas of the main characters with any emotional weight.

And in every case but Tanu's, writer Sharma does less with the characters in the sequel than in the original. The excellent Jimmy Shergill is largely wasted, a side plot involving Tanu's friend Payal (Swara Bhaskar) and her husband Jassi (Eijaz Khan) is underdeveloped, and another side plot in which Pappi attempts to elope with his wished-for fiancé goes nowhere.

As a result, this "romantic comedy-drama" doesn't have enough romance, comedy, or drama. The soundtrack of the film—one miscalculation aside—is very good; too bad it's in the service of Sharma's weak script. There are only two reasons to see Tanu Weds Manu Returns, and both of them are Kangana Ranaut.

A mild spoiler alert follows: Perhaps after two tries Sharma will finally figure out the couple that clearly belongs together at the end. If he writes yet another sequel, I hope, unlike Tanu and Manu, he'll avoid repeating his mistake.

Update 26 May 2015: For another perspective on Tanu Weds Manu Returns, see Filmi Geek.

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