It is unusual for a sequel to be better than the original, but that can safely be said about ‘Tanu Weds Manu Returns’. From the 2011 original, ‘Tanu Weds Manu’, to its follow up four years later, one can see tremendous growth in the writer, director and actors, in particular Kangana Ranaut.
In India sequels are not actually sequels; they are mostly a handful of the same actors repeated with the same title suffixed by a ‘2’ or ‘returns’ etc. But where ‘Tanu Weds Manu Returns’ scores over other Bollywood sequels is with Ranaut, an actress improving and improvising with every role, since her 2011 breakout hit.
Picking up four years after part one, feisty Tanu (Ranaut) and tubby Manu are having marital issues, which ends up with one in a mental asylum and the other seeking asylum in the comforts of parental home. Both try to pick up the threads of their lives while contemplating separation from their partner.
But when a Haryanvi athlete Kusum (Ranaut with a wig and false teeth), Tanu’s doppleganger, shows up in Manu’s life, everything changes dramatically. Romance blossoms again, old enmities are revived, new characters come in, confusion reigns and mystery builds as to how all this mess will be resolved.
Director Anand L Rai and writer Himanshu Sharma get the tones of small-town Indian just right, enhanced by Chitranjan Das’s cinematography. They build in fascinating characters that remain true to themselves through the film. They also score in their choices of actors: Jimmy Sheirgill as the toughie-turned-reliable friend Raja Awasthi, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub as the swindler on the rented roof, Deepak Dobriyal as the comical friend Pappi, Swara Bhaskar as Tanu’s confused bestie are some, among others, who keep the film steady.
The dialogues are witty, quirky and delivered with effortless ease, in particular Ranaut‘s monologue in Hariyanvi where she introduces herself with details including her address (but not the phone number). Mixed into the humour and drama are messages too, such as being open-minded, moving on with the times, tolerance and not judging a book by its cover (represented by Kusum, the buck-toothed, crass talking tomboy).
There is a line when Tanu confronts Manu and says, I was always like this, a mad person, but what happened to you? Thus touching on how, after marriage, each spouse wants an improved or altered version of his or her partner.
The reason this sequel is an improvement on the first is obviously Rai’s greater confidence as a filmmaker and Sharma’s enhanced familiarity with his characters. This is Sharma and Rai’s third collaboration and by far their most mature work. Add to this Ranaut’s grasp over the nuances of acting: She brings in the right balance between the two characters, managing to evoke laughter and sympathy within moments. It’s easy to understand why the men in her life keep falling for her and it’s easy to understand why she can’t get along with her husband.
However, the sartorially partial Ranaut cannot resist making a style statement, as if she dipped into the ‘Revolver Rani’ cupboard and restyled some of the garish costumes.
If Madhavan’s Manu was annoyingly spineless in the original, with added girth and less mirth, he’s simply bland and expendable. You wonder what both these girls see in this man – likened to ginger by Tanu who is equally appalled by his shapelessness.
‘Tanu Weds Manu Returns’ is a great showcase for Ranaut’s searing talent and a supporting cast that does not put a foot wrong.