Tanu Weds Manu Returns: Has the Glass Ceiling Been Finally Broken?

Well… Where should I begin! As a critic of mindless and illogical Bollywood films, I find it a bit hard to openly express my adulation for this film. But yes, to be honest Tanu Weds Manu Returns was the most enjoyable film I have seen in recent time. I cannot imagine doing some of the things the characters were doing or cannot help but notice many loopholes in the plot yet I cannot remember when was the last time I enjoyed a film so much.

As a sequel we were mostly familiar with the characters and the trailer informed us that there will be one more Kangna, that too with a thick Haryanvi accent. However, the film starts with a very jarring and implausible note. Although amusing, it is hard to imagine someone pushing one’s spouse to a mental asylum and coming back home triumphantly, especially when the spouse is actually a very harmless person. Anyways, the film picks up once the action returns to India. Tanu rekindles her old affairs and even finds a new admirer who soon morphs into an obsessive stalker more in the lines of the director’s previous film, Ranjhana although here he is used more as a comic relief. Manu also comes back after he is rescued from the asylum and in the traditions of truly mindless Bollywood entertainers, he falls for another girl, not just anyone but a more rustic and tomboyish lookalike of his estranged wife.

Whatever follows defy all logic as expected and everything is tied up to provide a neat happy ending backed by an energetic soundtrack. However, I could not help but notice but a few goofs. For instance there is a hilarious kidnapping subplot but later on everybody conveniently forgets the kidnapping or its consequences. Such liberties are a bit uncalled for when the writing team generally comes across as sharp and intelligent. Nevertheless, Aanand L Rai and team have perfected the formula for a hinterland film. These are outrageous but still earthy and relatable characters from small towns that you will never see in Karan Johar, Yashraj or Zoya Akhtar films. More importantly even the smallest of the characters have been given whistle-worthy punchlines. Also, they have got the pacing absolutely right. The film moves so fast that you never have time to think about logical inconsistencies. While I am aware of the apple-orange analogy, I cannot help but think of Bombay Velvet in this regard. This is exactly what Kashyap did so successfully in his older films but this is exactly what he failed to do in Bombay Velvet, which was too slow and two devoid of any crowd pleasing moments to succeed.

Now, coming back to the film, I think irrespective of the clever dialogues and brilliant supporting cast, it is eventually a film almost singlehandedly carried by Kangna Ranaut, even more so than Queen. The very fact that she has succeeded in delivering a 100 crore plus (200 crore counting overseas collection) should be considered a slap on the male chauvinistic, conservative and unimaginative industry like Bollywood which also thrives on nepotism. Ranaut has now firmly established herself as the successor of Vidya Balan despite her unconventional looks, minor speech impediments, lack of US accent or for that matter the lack of any Godfather. This, in my opinion is the bigger story than the film itself.

Does this mean that we finally have a female star who can stand on her own? Vidya Balan tried hard for a few years but the cruel industry is unkind to actresses above 30 (and married). Can Ranaut break the jinx and take it to the next level? Will she keep getting author backed roles to continue this purple patch? My level of respect for and interest in Bollywood in the near future will depend on the answer to these questions.

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