Rating : 4/5
Genre : Romance
Year : 2011
Running time : 2 hours 15 minutes
Director : Aanand Rai
Cast : Madhavan, Kangana Ranaut, Jimmy Shergill, Ram Kissen, Deepak Dobriyal, Swara Bhaskara, K. K. Raina, Rajendra Gupta, Navni Parihar, Eijaz Khan
Kid rating : PG
“Tanu weds Manu” is an unexpectedly subtle film, given that when it was released it was best known for it’s thrumming Bhangra number “Saddi Gali”. Tanu (Kangana Ranaut) is Tanuja Trivedi, a girl of middle-class UP-ite roots. Manu (Madhavan) is Manoj Sharma, the NRI doctor come home to find a bride, upon his mother’s persistence. The two meet when Manu and his family visit Tanu’s family to meet the girl, i.e.; Tanu. She is drugged and out cold at the time, but Manu is smitten nevertheless. He assents to the marriage and the families come together to decide on the practicalities. However, Manu’s dreams of marital bliss die a quick death, when Tanu brusquely tells him that she has a boyfriend whom she intends to marry. She tells him (Manu) to back off from the marriage, which he does. But his troubles don’t end there – the fellow is lovelorn for a girl who won’t have him, and he thinks a change of environment will help, so he goes to a friend Jaspreet’s (Eijaz Khan) wedding in Kapurthala, Punjab. Who else does he meet but the lady herself – Tanu in all her wedding finery and brimming with the enthusiasm and the whimsy that won his heart in the first place . . .
This is the tale of the Sharma-Trivedi love-struggle, and nicely etched out. The characters are true blue UP, speaking chaste Hindi – the kinds I hear only when I’m in UP, like the word “paglait” for example. As we travel to Kanpur and Lucknow, listen to the Sharmas and Trivedis talk excitedly, we see the Hindi-belt in all it’s vernacular glory. The cinematography is excellent (I’d not have thought that UP landscapes could have looked this appealing) and there are nice details like the way Manu’s father affectionately address his wife as “Madam”, or the coil of mosquito repellant under Manu’s bed as he lies in bed dreaming of Tanu.
Tanu’s parents, especially her father are tired of the headstrong Tanu and quite ready to see her married. She has other ideas. She is quite a rebel, trying to do everything that her parents forbid – which means smoking, drinking, and associating with the wrong crowd. Quite a vociferous character she knows what she wants and will not shy away from speaking her mind. Manu, on the other hand is quite the opposite. Quiet and almost introverted, he differs from his UP-ite brethren in respecting a girl’s wishes and practicing restraint – he doesn’t want Tanu against her will.
Besides the physical locales and settings that he gets just right, the director also interestingly portrays Tanu’s plight and the culture she is surrounded by. Although she never comes out and says it, one might imagine her rebellious streak to be a response to her family’s get-the-girl-married (and quick!) mentality. A small-town girl with an opinion! Whoever heard of such a thing! What will people say? It is interesting to note that when Manu agrees to the marriage, Tanu’s opinion is not even sought. I was also appalled at the scene where an out-cold Tanu is “displayed” for a meeting with her prospective bridegroom, but have no trouble believing that such a callous treatment could be possible – it is reflective of the culture. I can also sympathize with her father, distraught at the antics of his wayward daughter; hard indeed to be a father of an independent-minded daughter in a society which deems women happiest if and only if tied to a man.
In such circumstances, Manu’s respectful character is immensely appealing, and you are rooting for him almost immediately. Madhavan is stellar in this role, charming and just the right amount of besotted. Tanu’s character, if I say so myself, was a little too flighty to garner much sympathy – a girl who is ready to cut off her nose to spite her face. Kangana manages to look vulnerable even so. As cold and unfeeling as she appears to be, because of Kangana’s excellent portrayal of Tanu, we realize that this is just one lone, much-harassed woman striking out against the restrictions around her. Her character makes you wish that women weren’t pushed so forcefully into abiding by society’s rigid, restrictive rules that they turned a complete about-face.
“Tanu weds Manu” also has an excellent supporting cast. Deepak Dobriyal is superb as Manu’s best friend Pappi, who advocates a more aggressive path to wooing Tanu than Manu would like. K.K. Raina is Kishan Sharma, Manu’s beleaguered father. Rajendra Gupta is Tanu’s father Rajendra Trivedi, and carries the role of hapless father beautifully. Navni Parihar as Tanu’s mother Radha has a small, ineffectual role; she is ill-used since she is a fine actress. Jimmy Shergill is Raja Awasthi – a character Manu meets almost accidentally, but who plays a major role in deciding Manu’s fate. Swara Bhaskar plays Payal Sinha, Tanu’s best friend about to get married to Manu’s friend Jaspreet. She is excellent as a Bihar-an, with the right tones and inflections.
Besides the stellar cast, the film is well-directed and also has an exquisite sound-track. There are the obvious crowd-pleasers – “Saddi Gali” and “Jugni”, but then there are the soft, sentimental numbers in Mohit Chauhan’s golden voice – “Yun hi” and “Rangrez” which never seemed to get the traction they deserved. The film includes the Lata Mangeshkar sung oldie “Kajra Mohabbat Wala” which is lovely, since they use it unmodified – see it below.
I saw Mouna Ragam many, many years ago, and “Tanu weds Manu” appears to be a modern-day Mouna-Ragam. Of course the rebellious girl-meets-strong,silent man theme has been explored in other films like “Hum dil de chuke sanam” , Aisha (2010), Swami (1977), Bezubaan (1982) and has been a staple of romance-lovers for generations. This movie is a pleasant interpretation of it. If you haven’t seen this film it, I highly recommend it.