Tanu Weds Manu Returns (2015) *HQ*

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Four years into marriage, Tanuja Trivedi aka Tanu (Kangana Ranaut) and Manoj Sharma aka Manu (R Madhavan) have driven each other hysterical. Literally. Writer-director Aanand L Rai starts off with the couple screaming out a lengthy list of complaints and accusations against each other in front of three psychiatrists in London.

That they decided to go straight to an asylum and not a relationship counsellor is one of the few creative liberties that Rai indulges in. The amusing altercation ends with the relationship on the rocks and one of the two locked in the asylum. Soon, Tanu and Manu return to their households in Kanpur and Delhi respectively. And so begins Rai’s trademark terse, sardonic humour, most of which is directed at Manu.

The feisty Tanu, unsurprisingly, creates a stir once back home home. Her way of coping with the failure of her marriage is by humiliating a possible suitor for his sister, catching up with old pals and using the shameless tenant-aspiring lawyer Chintu (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub) to chauffeur her around the city. Just when she is contemplating fixing things with Manu, she receives a notice for divorce. Meanwhile in Delhi, as Manu waits for an apology from Tanu, he finds himself drawn to Kusum, a Delhi University student almost half his age, who bears an uncanny resemblance to his wife. Kusum’s sporty ways and her pixie haircut and freckles are far away from the I’m-Sexy-and-I-Know-it Tanu, but like her she is also brazen and possesses a charismatic personality.

Manu has his reasons for his growing attraction towards Kusum, but Rai fails to clearly establish what makes Kusum’s heart beat for a fortysomething soon-to-divorce man over everybody else. Instead his way of building the relationship is first by having Manu follow Kusum around and then jump to proximity between the two through a song. Perhaps this unconvincing way of dealing with the new union is Rai’s way of justifying that this is nothing but a rebound for Manu. But it doesn’t result in a strong, compelling love triangle which leads to the drama in the next hour.

The sequel to the 2011 comedy is as much about a troubled marriage as it is about getting over first love by seeking love again. A fine line exists between bruised egos and broken hearts in Tanu Weds Manu Returns. Has Manu really fallen for Kusum because of who she is or because of how she reminds him of the woman he loved or… still loves? Can Tanu acknowledge she isn’t the easiest person to please and realise that it takes two to tango? These are a few of the tough questions that Rai poses but never addresses thoroughly. Trouble is that he also loses track of the friction between the two eponymous protagonists, to look at superfluous stories involving supporting characters.

While the first half is pacy, fun and eventful and spearheaded fabulously by Ranaut, the second is a disappointment. Devoid of ideas to reach the inevitable climax, Rai crams it with wedding festivities (three in a span of an hour) and far too many songs, which drag the proceedings and contribute little to the story. As he finally gets to drama and resolution, Rai struggles and relies on his supporting characters – especially Pappi – to perk up the proceedings. But that cannot hide the flaws of the dreary screenplay. What we instead have is Tanu drinking, sulking and crying over love lost, and Manu refusing to accept the apparent.

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