Consider the Saltine cracker: a food so bland and inoffensive it’s one of the few things you can keep down when you have the stomach flu. It’s salted, but not enough to make it a go-to snack when you’re craving something salty. In fact, you kind of forget about that box of Saltines, relegating it to the back of the cupboard until the next time you either come down with the flu or run out of anything else to eat.
Tanu Weds Manu is the Saltine cracker of movies.
There’s nothing particularly wrong with Tanu Weds Manu. The costumes are pretty, the music is peppy, and the main characters are basically nice people. But there’s nothing to Tanu Weds Manu. Movies need conflict and urgency to maintain interest, and Tanu Weds Manu is devoid of both.
Since the title gives away the movie’s ending, I don’t feel I’m spoiling anything with this summary of the film.
Manu (R. Madhavan): Hi, Tanu. Our parents want us to get married. You’re pretty, so I’m game.
Tanu (Kangana Ranaut): I don’t want to marry you.
Manu: Okay. I’ll leave.
Tanu: Wait. You seem like a nice enough guy, but I want to marry someone else.
Manu: Okay. I’ll leave.
Tanu: Wait. I changed my mind. I want to marry you.
Other Guy (Jimmy Shergill): Hey, what about me?
Tanu & Manu: Sorry, but the title says we have to get married.
Other Guy: Okay. I’ll leave.
There you have it. Tanu’s a bit of a bad girl in that she drinks and smokes, but she’s otherwise uncontroversial. Manu is a terminally nice doctor and a bit of a pushover. There’s no real chemistry between them, so their romance feels like titular destiny more than anything else. Shergill’s villain, Raja, gets into fights, but he’s basically non-threatening. Everyone else in the film is forgettable.
Watching Tanu Weds Manu, I was reminded of my mother-in-law’s stance on the children’s book series Junie B. Jones. My mother-in-law, Joan (whom I love), refuses to read Junie B. Jones books to my 7-year-old niece because Junie B. uses incorrect grammar and sometimes gets sassy with adults, as if merely exposing my niece to these concepts would trigger some kind of pre-teen linguistic rebellion.
I imagine Joan’s ideal kids’ book to be one in which the child protagonist cleans her room and finishes her homework with enough time to play a game of Yahtzee with her adoring grandmother before the girl’s bedtime at 6 p.m. There’s nothing offensive about such a story, but who’d want to read it? Same goes for Tanu Weds Manu.