Movie Review: Tanu Weds Manu Returns (2015)

tanu-weds-manu-returns-poster2 Stars (out of 4)

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Tanu Weds Manu Returns is the feel-bad romantic comedy of the year. Lighthearted moments are undercut by a cynicism about the institution of marriage that leaves one feeling melancholy at best, depressed at worst.

2011’s Tanu Weds Manu was a conventional romcom about a pair of opposites: wild-child Tanu (Kangana Ranaut) and steadfast Manu (R. Madhavan). Tanu Weds Manu Returns (TWMR, henceforth) picks up after the first four years of their miserable marriage.

Tanu is so desperate to get out of her marriage that she has Manu committed to a London mental institution. She later feels bad, calling Manu’s friend Pappi (Deepak Dobriyal) to rescue her husband while she flies back to India.

The couple wind up at their respective family homes in different cities (the geography in TWMR is confusing for international audiences). Tanu flirts with her parents’ tenant, Chintu (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub), and unwisely reconnects with her short-tempered ex-boyfriend, Raja (Jimmy Shergill). Manu notices a college athlete who is the spitting image of Tanu, only with a pixie cut. He stalks Kusum (also Ranaut) until she relents, and they start dating.

Manu falling for his wife’s younger lookalike is a cute story setup, but it gets creepier the more serious the relationship becomes. Pappi warns that the new relationship is a bad idea — especially since it begins before Tanu and Manu are officially divorced — but he doesn’t call Manu’s obsession what it is: weird.

It hard to know who to root for in this movie. Tanu and Manu are both incredible jerks to each other. Tanu is arrogant and lacks empathy. Manu is selfish but wishy-washy. He doesn’t even possess enough will to make his climactic decision on his own, without prompting.

Worse, TWMR makes the characters’ circumstances so dire that its impossible to resolve the story in a satisfying way. There are really only a handful of things that one spouse could say to the other that would permanently destroy their marriage. When Tanu is at her most pitiable, Manu says one of those things to her. It’s crushing to watch.

Director Anand L. Rai and writer Himanshu Sharma give themselves only two possible outcomes: either Tanu and Manu get back together, or Manu weds Kusum and says good-bye to Tanu forever. Neither option feels good, and both are bad for Kusum.

Kusum is the movie’s redeeming element. She’s an independent tomboy, but she’s also sweet and honest. She’s reluctant to get romantically involved with anyone because, if the relationship negatively affects her athletics, it will make it that much harder for other girls from her village to get scholarships in the future. That Manu pursues her anyway is a sign of his selfishness.

Ranuat’s acting abilities are widely acclaimed, and it’s fun to see her pull off two very different roles in the same movie with such ease. Dobriyal is also entertainingly twitchy as Pappi. Manu’s not much of character as it is, and Madhavan doesn’t add much.

In addition to an unsatisfying story, international audiences will be hampered by poorly translated subtitles. Minor spelling errors — such as writing “apologies” instead of “apologize” — hint at greater problems in translating the humor from Hindi to English. The crowd of mostly native Hindi speakers at my showing laughed uproariously to lines that, in English, read as utilitarian.

Watch Tanu Weds Manu Returns for Kangana Ranaut. Just don’t expect to have a lot of fun while doing it.

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25 thoughts on “Movie Review: Tanu Weds Manu Returns (2015)

  1. Pingback: This Week at the Movies, Part 2 (May 22-24, 2015) « Online Film Critics Society

  2. Abhijit Yadav

    The review was quiet spot on and while watching the movie itself I thought it may not sound as good with subtitles, also a lot of cultural differences between characters from Lucknow, Kanpur and Haryana made things even more interesting which may not be familiar to international audience.

    Reply
    1. Kathy Post author

      Thanks, Abhijit! I have a question for you (or any other reader from India who might know the answer): would the majority of Indians who watch the movie get all of the cultural differences behind the jokes, or does it depend on where you are from in India? Since all the towns in the movie are in northern India, would the jokes still be funny to someone from the South?

      Reply
      1. Udayan

        Anyone who understands Hindi would get almost all of the jokes. But there’s more to the film than the language being spoken itself. The mannerism and nuances are spot on and thus are really funny. What makes it even funnier is the crude dialects spoken by the characters. Yet, sadly it’s the use of this crude dialects that can play a spoilsport for people who’s first language is not Hindi/ and who don’t understand the backdrop of the film.

        Personally, I think 2/4 is way too harsh on the movie. But I undestand the use of subtitles and unfamiliarity with the setting of the movie could be a downer here.

        Reply
        1. Kathy Post author

          Udayan, my rating of 2/4 stars is precisely based on the fact that the movie isn’t funny for someone who doesn’t understand subtle regional differences or dialect differences. You might have rating it higher, but as you said, you have that base knowledge. If the movie had given more context for foreign audiences — or even moviegoers from South India — it might have gotten a higher rating.

          Reply
  3. Rajeev

    Hi Kathy, The majority of Indians won`t get all the jokes with cultural differences. #TWMR is set in North India covering three cities including New Delhi. This northern part is quite vast and majority of people speak and understand Hindi very well, hence people from southern part or some other non Hindi speaking states won`t get the dialect/jokes.

    Reply
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  6. Kartiek

    Kathy, I also thought that Kusum’s character was very positive. Manu and Tanu, as you said, have their own issues, but this is what human beings are like, often, and I thought their humanness was well portrayed in the script and the acting. The comedy was certainly top notch, and I think the subtitles may have let you down. When, on occasion I did glance over to the subtitles, I felt that they were way off.

    It is true though, that one would need to understand the cultural differences. I think the move would definitely be more appealing to the Punjab/Harayana/Delhi/UP/Bihar belt of people; and I just happen to have a mix of all of them 😛

    Reply
    1. Kathy Post author

      “I think the move would definitely be more appealing to the Punjab/Harayana/Delhi/UP/Bihar belt of people.” TWMR’s box office success points to the devotion of this demographic, Kartiek. 🙂

      Reply
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