Hardly surprising then that when the new film opens, we learn that the marriage between high-strung Tanu (Kangana Ranaut) and “boring” doctor Manu (R Madhavan) has gone sour in the four years that they’ve lived together in England. Deserting Manu in a mental healthcare facility, Tanu returns home to Kanpur only to live up to her enfant terrible reputation, even while fanning the flames within the hearts of both her ex-boyfriend Raja Awasthi (Jimmy Shergill), and Chintu (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub), a tenant in her parent’s home. A livid Manu, meanwhile, returns to Delhi, where he meets and instantly falls for Kusum aka Datto (also played by Kangana Ranaut), a strong-willed Haryanvi athlete who bears a striking resemblance to Tanu.
Rai and writer Himanshu Sharma serve up a first hour that’s light and breezy. Much humor is mined from the exchanges between Manu and Datto, particularly a scene in which she offers a detailed introduction of herself in chaste Haryanvi – down to her address, but naturally leaving out her telephone number. To be fair, the film is peppered with hilarious one-liners, and Rai delivers an authentic portrait of small-town India, complete with characters that are rooted in the milieu. My favorite among these was Manu’s devoted best friend Pappi, played by a terrific Deepak Dobriyal who gets some of the best moments on screen.
Although there’s a lot going on in the film – a love triangle at the centre, a kidnapping, supporting players with their own crises – admittedly the plot weakens post-intermission. This being the story of Tanu and Manu, you know how things will turn out in the end, yet Sharma’s script takes a predictable route to get there. If the climax works, despite being a rip-off of every love-triangle finale from Saajan to Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, it’s because Kangana Ranaut brings genuine, heartfelt emotion to those scenes.
Tanu Weds Manu Returns is no doubt a showcase for the immense talent of Ranaut, who sinks her teeth into this ‘double-role’ challenge, and creates two strikingly different characters. In Tanu she gives us a wild-child defined by her reckless spirit; a girl hiding her pain behind sheer obnoxiousness. No-nonsense Datto, meanwhile, of the pixie cut, buck teeth, and often indecipherable accent, is instantly endearing. The actress makes you care for both women.
R Madhavan nicely underplays once again as Manu, and the feisty Swara Bhaskar returns as Tanu’s best friend, who’s hiding a secret. Even bit players get a moment or two to shine, and despite the occasionally preachy diversions that the script takes, I have to confess I thoroughly enjoyed the film. This is that rare movie that doesn’t derail despite its speed-bumps because you’re invested in its characters and happy to make the journey with them.
I’m going with four out of five for the flat-out delightful Tanu Weds Manu Returns. I haven’t laughed this hard during any film recently. Watch it for Kangana Ranaut, who’s at the top of her game.