I have often observed on my visits to the West that people living overseas are far more seeped in Indian ethnic values, customs, festivities and rituals, when compared to a lot many Indians living in Hindustan. Those who live there believe that by observing and practicing the Indian traditions, they would continue to remain Indian at heart. Most of them also wish to wed an Indian because they consider that their respective spouse would bring along with them time-honored Indian values.
For some strange reason, Hindi cinema has often projected an NRI youngster as a cool and hep dude, pretending to speak Hindi with an English accent. But that, in my opinion, is merely a faÇade. It's far from real. Sure, there could be exceptions, but every NRI who arrives in India isn't wearing an Armani or Versace. Neither is he a die-hard romantic like Raj or Rahul. In fact, a lot of NRIs I know are amused to note that while they held on to the traditions, the ones in India are more inclined towards the West.
Yet, the East-West love story remains a pet theme that continues to invade the Hindi screen. Films like Purab Aur Paschim, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and Namastey London have explored this topic most convincingly. In fact, a lot many people feel that YRF and Dharma have highlighted this aspect in various films, which the diaspora has lapped up with glee. But, of late, films that carry with them the scent of the soil are being attempted by our storytellers. Tanu Weds Manu too highlights this facet.
The NRI in Tanu Weds Manu is docile, unassuming and soft-spoken, has no accent or attitude, believes in arranged marriages, relishes the evergreen songs of Mohammed Rafi, is old-fashioned literally. The girl is contradictory. She's belligerent and dominating, also smokes, drinks and uses expletives, has had many 'affairs', has her new boyfriend's name tattooed on her chest, is a straight-forward and fearless babe. This is their story!
Like his directorial debut Strangers, director Aanand L Rai opts for unconventional and unpredictable situations in Tanu Weds Manu. Of course, the fact that Tanu and Manu would tie the knot sooner or later is at the back of your mind, even before the reels have begun to unfold, but you want to experience their journey - their voyage from strangers to lovers.
Tanu Weds Manu has some great moments, some standard ones, some tedious ones as well, when you feel that the story is being stretched for no particular reason. The drama tends to get heavy after a point and that takes a toll on the film. In fact, the writing gets shaky in the middle of the second hour, although the finale is well thought of and implemented. You may call it cliched or formulaic, but it works big time.
Meet Manu [R. Madhavan], a seedha saadha Doctor from London. Intelligent, temperate and from a respectable family, the perfect groom which every parent wants for their daughter. When he arrives in India, he realizes that India has changed and so have the people. The Indian women in particular are more attracted towards the Western lifestyle. Family pressure leads him to Kanpur to meet Tanu [Kangana Ranaut], the quintessential small-town girl who has studied in Delhi.
Tanu (Kangana Ranaut) is a smart, intelligent girl who will do everything that her parents will disapprove. With a mind of her own and a love for rebellion, Tanu is dead against an arranged marriage. But destiny holds something totally different for these diametrically diverse personalities.
Although not similar to Jab We Met, Tanu Weds Manu conjures up memories of the Imtiaz Ali-directed film. The Punjabi setting and the rebellious girl are two prominent similarities that one recollects instantly. Besides, in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Pardes, Jab We Met as well as Tanu Weds Manu, the girl is in love with someone else and the protagonist helps them take the relationship forward. But director Aanand L Rai ensures that Tanu Weds Manu retains its individuality and doesn't come across as a replica/clone of those immensely likable films. In fact, his handling of several light moments as well as dramatic ones is exemplary.
Tanu Weds Manu has some wonderful moments in the first hour, but I'd like to single out the sequence when Madhavan confides in Deepak Dobriyal about Kangana Ranaut not wanting to marry him. Also, the sequence at the interval comes as a bolt from the blue. It's the writing in the post-interval portions that bothered me. Jimmy Sheirgill's sequences aren't as convincing. Also, since Kangana is shown to be a blabber mouth and also forthright and outspoken, why does she turn docile all of a sudden? It doesn't go with her character, honestly. Also, since Ravi Kissen has Madhavan's photograph [presumably handed to him by Jimmy Sheirgill], why is Jimmy unaware that Madhavan is the same guy when he meets him for the first time? A few hiccups, but not the type that really go against the film. However, the penultimate 15/20 minutes bring the film back on tracks. Actually, the climax is the highpoint of this enterprise.
The soundtrack takes you by complete surprise. It is earthy and charming. 'Sadi Gali' and 'Jugni' are two tracks that act as pillars and would help attract moviegoers to cineplexes. Also, the popular track of yesteryears, 'Kajra Mohabbat Wala', is well integrated in the narrative. Chirantan Das's cinematography captures the lush locales of North India well.
Even though Madhavan enacts the role of an NRI, he doesn't come across as a stereotypical phoren returned desi. He is real, restrained, yet forceful. To essay a character in such an understated manner is a challenge for any actor and he does it with complete understanding of the character. Unlike her past films, Kangana Ranaut plays a part that has a zest for life and is bold and fun-loving at the same time. She's audacious, but lovable. Nonetheless, she needs to work on her pronunciation/diction, which sounds so peculiar.
Jimmy Sheirgill springs a pleasant surprise. Known for portraying soft/positive roles, this one comes as a complete shocker. Though his role isn't well etched out, he leaves a solid impression in the latter reels. Ravi Kissen is wasted. What is he doing in this film? Deepak Dobriyal is superb yet again. This dynamic actor is under-utilized in our films. Rajendra Gupta, K.K. Raina, Navni Parihaar and Deepti Mishra are effective. Eijaz Khan and Swara Bhaskar are wonderful.
On the whole, Tanu Weds Manu is a feel-good, light-hearted entertainer with the right dose of humor, drama and romance, besides a popular musical score and some smart dialogue that act as toppings. If you like simple, uncomplicated films that tug at your heartstrings, then chances are that you might just like this sweet little rom-com. In terms of economics, the right holders have already recovered a substantial amount from the sale of Satellite Rights. The merits of the film coupled with no major opposition till 1 April will ensure healthy returns on their investment, thus making the investors recover the remainder amount easily. The only concern is the inopportune release period for movies [World Cup] and chances are its business might get affected on days when crucial matches are played, especially when India is on field.