TANU WEDS MANU RETURNS. Director: Anand L. Rai. Players: Kangana Ranaut, Madhavan, Jimmy Shergill, Mohammad Zeeshan Ayub and Swara Bhaskar. Music: Krsna Solo, Tanishq. Theater release: Colour Yellow Pictures, Eros International.34

A sequel to a successful but not extraordinary Tanu Weds Manu—how exciting could it be? Could there be anything new about it? Well, yes, the second, quite unrecognizable Kangana. And she did look intriguing enough to warrant the tickets but I went with low expectations.

And I’m glad to report that I was proved resoundingly wrong!

The film begins with a swift recap of the lively wedding in TWM as the credits roll to the very appropriate background song sun sahiba sun, pyaar ki dhun only to immediately transport us to the contrastingly grey and glum exterior of a mental asylum cum marriage-counseling center (don’t ask me) in the snowy Twickenham, UK.

We find Tanu (Ranaut) and Manu (Madhavan) standing there at the end of their tethers four years later. The seven–year itch has set in three years too soon. An acrimonious parting further convinces them that theirs is not a marriage made in heaven. Determined to end their farcical marriage, Tanu returns to Kanpur–and as the more impulsive of the two, tries to find the lost spark in the string of her erstwhile “boyfriends”—who range from a rickshaw-wala to the realtor Raja Awasthi (Shergill) who had been abandoned at the altar in the prequel Tanu Weds Manu.

Manu, sick of the whole thing, seems resigned to the idea of returning to bachelordom and to drinking down his sorrows, but then he comes across a young Haryanvi athlete, Kusum aka Datto (an outstanding Ranaut 2). Her resemblance to Tanu makes Manu fall in love again, perhaps on a rebound, and he pursues her till he convinces her of his intentions.

How he goes about overcoming Datto’s and his own bosom-friend, Pappi’s (Dobriyal at his most hilarious) objections; and, after all, whether he still loves the original Tanu and whether she finds love elsewhere or not is what the film is about. The climax is a little contrived and Tanu’s stance unrealistically masochistic, but the performances rise above the story and hold it together.

Undoubtedly, this film belongs to Kangana Ranaut. With the recent National Award for Queen under her belt, Ranaut is undeniably a force to reckon with in her two roles of Tanu and Datto. The former is the desi diva —“the Batman, who people hear about but don’t see” as Chintu (Ayyub) puts it in the film—she is the pouty-lipped, made-up, shallow and selfish little doll. Kusum or Datto on the other hand is the innocent, sorted and independent athlete who is touchingly proud of her ability to support herself and her family.

Kangana, in a triumph of a performance, lives the part of Datto, her act is pat from the quizzical expressions to her boyish gait and perfect Haryanvi accent. Much hoo-haa is usually made when a super-star “preps” for a role—how he got his eight-packs or learnt this or that dialect, but Kangana leaves them all behind as she takes on this challenging role which isn’t like anything she has ever done before. She is in a class of her own.

The other character who deserves a very special mention is Deepak Dobriyal as Madhavan’s friend. We knew he was a great comic but in TMW2 he comes to his own and is side-splittingly funny as Madhavan’s confused friend who has his own fish to fry.

Madhavan serves as a foil to Ranaut in both her avatars and is consistent falling out and in love again. He gracefully gives Ranaut her space and still holds his own as the disgruntled husband who is wondering what he has let himself in for. Shergill also comes from the line of those secure actors who know they’re good and don’t believe in hogging the space. Another actor to watch out for is Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub, as the crafty, small-time lawyer from Uttar Pradesh who falls for the charms of Tanu despite calling her “didi.”
A star in its own right is the writing of the film. While there are several loopholes and contrivances in the film, the dialogues sparkle with wit and humour without resorting to crassness anywhere. Take a bow, Himanshu Sharma! Anand L. Rai deserves praise as he has made small-town milieu his own with Kanpur and Lucknow-based characters in TMW and then in Ranjhnaa. In TWM2 too he delivers, proving to be completely in sync with his surroundings. His mastery over the medium is apparent in some scenes lifted straight out of life, like the one in which Manu, his father and Pappi are bonding over drinks. We hear the irate mother’s non-stop complaints from inside the house to which none of the three seem to pay any attention, till the father—fed up of the tirade, coolly brandishes a floor-wiper and smashes the tube-light.

As far as music is concerned, though nothing extraordinary, the songs fit in as they are feisty and folksy, specially, “Banno tera swagger sexy lage,” Krsna Solo and Tanishk-Vayu have done their job well. Chiranatna Das’s cinematography captures Kanpur and Jhajhar village very realistically.

While we can question how a man can fall in love with a look-alike of a wife whom he hates; how a wife returns to her not-so-rosy marriage only on discovering that her previous beaus are all unavailable; and how she tortures herself by helping out and dancing at her own husband’s wedding, what remains far above any question are the superb performances and the well-written sequences which help us glide over the bumpy bits in the story.

TWM: Returns is another one in the line of clean comedies which do not depend on the crutch of crass to raise the guffaws.

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Madhumita Gupta is a freelance writer and a teacher.

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