Tanu Weds Manu
Director: Anand Rai
Actors: R Madhavan, Kangana Ranaut
She loves smoking pot, a poison, I’ve realised, is far more favourable to women than hard liquor. Though given a chance, she could drink straight from a bottle of Old Monk, calling her glug, minor sips: “Littil littil.” She’s also bi-sexual (or at least bi-curious as Facebook might put it), and she changes boyfriends by the week -- these are of course only her own tall claims. The film gives out no evidences to the effect. She’s still the kind of girl who could fit quite easily into a Delhi University hostel. Which by the way, is where she went.
Where she lives is another story. Girls like these, and their “lakshan” (behaviour), supposedly create scandals (“kaand”) in pokey, hushed colonies of Kanpur. Chamanganj is her neighbourhood. “(Ladki) haath se nikal gayi hai (She’s crossed her limits),” is how the mother describes her, in accurate idiom. Her current boyfriend is a ‘railway contractor’. On streets of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, that profession is usually euphemism for a dreaded don, the feared man of every north Indian small town. Tough girls usually go for the ‘bad boys’. The girl in this pic is a perennial rebel, sometimes without a cause, and mostly without an ambition.
She couldn’t have found a more polar opposite in the great Indian bespectacled geek boy, who always wears a smirk on his face, keeps his ironed shirt neatly tucked into his pleated trousers. He mysteriously finished his engineering from Pune to land up with a degree in medicine from abroad. He’s the obedient, sedated, ‘unhappening’ NRI son to his proud middle class parents. He’d probably be the loser in London (where he comes from). But never mind, that.
Here we go then: Tanuja Trivedi (Tanu in short), the girl; and Manu Sharma or Manu, the man (Madhavan, Kangana, in top form, both). They should’ve ideally never met. But that’s the beauty of the arranged marriage roulette: the deadliest blind-dating game in the world. It tends to unite the unlikeliest of people. This shaadi masochism is set in “sanskar” (culture), has served several generations well. Your parents can’t be wrong. The boy, like most Indians past their mid-20s, treats marriage as merely something that must be done: “Yeh bhi toh kaam hi hai, nibta dete hain (It’s also work, get it over with).”
The first time the boy visits the girl with his family, he’s bashed up by her boyfriend’s men at the railway station itself. “Pusht maara jayega,” the goons promise, and you derive a certain, tingly pleasure in hearing correct, colloquial Hindi in a Hindi film! Manu’s swollen eyes haven’t even met Tanu’s (she’s drugged out and asleep). He's in love. Sexual repression alone can explain such affection. He even kisses her while no one’s looking. She rejects him.
Sharma family – the parents, son, his best friend (Deepak Dobriyal) --continues their search for a bride across Lucknow, Noida, Kapurthala…. You could get a whiff of the uric smell of India as they move along. The premise is sufficiently original even for a ‘road movie’ (infinitely more engaging than the Ashutosh Gowariker dim-sum What’s Your Rashee). Girls change. The boy’s mind doesn’t. The forbidden first fruit besots him still.
As luck would have it, he meets her again at a common friend’s wedding ceremony – the most fertile ground for desi men looking for hook-ups. Theirs turns out to be a cheeky, charming romance in a world before sexting, but curiously, after the cell-phone. Of course you know the two will end up together. Barriers only buy time. Romance is probably the toughest movie genre to pull off. Its coordinates are always known. Which is why when you look interested, you figure, the film is even better than it seems. This one is. Because it’s still not the rom-com you saw last weekend, and certainly not the one you’ve been watching for years. The difference? It’s still more real, and the nuances bear an inspired writer’s imagination.
Habib Faisal (Do Dooni Char), Rajkumar Gupta (No One Killed Jessica), Abhishek Sharma (Tere Bin Laden), Subhash Kapoor (Phas Gaye Re Obama), Vijay Lalvani (Karthik Calling Karthik), Anusha Rizvi (Peepli Live), Anand Rai (this one)… Who are these random names – hardly known, for no media circus, “showman”, "dream merchant" style celebrity halo hangs over their heads?
They reveal a rapidly expanding new India, with a newer, more confident voice. An outsider’s persistence and talent are finally turning out to be fine levelers. Doors of their workplace don’t appear locked from the inside anymore. Small town is subsequently big. In Bollywood. As in cricket. Wedding's the other middle Indian obsession. That's what this film's about. You should definitely take these guys up on the invitation.