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RohinGupta

Short review - "Tanu Weds Manu returns"

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Trailer can be viewed here

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=VFCfcwFtGAY

 

**************************SPOILER ALERT*******************

"Tanu Weds Manu returns" starts with the separation of Indian couple in London, Tanu and Manu. Cause of separation can easily be inferred to as the overly dominating nature of Tanu. On return to India, Tanu starts flirting with her ex-boyfriends and new neighbor, while still getting information on what Manu is upto. When she realizes that Manu is marrying her lookalike Kusum, she tries to mock her. On failing, she insists on attending the marriage. Finally, at the last moment Kusum realizes that Manu is not prepared to marry her, and on being asked Manu decides to return to Tanu.

I was profoundly impacted by this movie. Director Anand Rai is turning out to be the Dostovesky of Bollywood. Comparing Romantic literature Dostovesky was part of(completely different from Yash Chopra type romantic movies), to Naturalism. What stands out is that in Romanticism every aspect of art product is extremely relevant to the overall product. In naturalist movie "Bhag Milkha Bhag" for example, or "Paan Singh Tomar", there were many events which made little or no contribution to the overall pursuit of characters' goals. In fact in both cases, the goals got changed in the middle of story.

In "Tanu Weds Manu returns" however, the goals of main characters are clear from the beginning to the end, even though most of the realization comes once the movie is over. And every scene and dialog is directed to present that pursuit. So from Tanu's flirtations with multiple men, to Manu's passive commitment to Kusum, to Kusum's contextually rational acts to direct Manu into a healthy romantic relationship. The goals are clear from the start. Tanu wants to dominate men to the extreme, and therefore wants someone who can be torn apart emotionally and still wants to remain with her. Manu wants a healthy relationship which is also emotionally gratifying. Kusum wants a life where she can assert her independence and yet live joyously with her family or romantic partner.

BUT there is a sub-category in Romanticism. There are rational goals and there are irrational goals. What ought to be right path can be asserted by showing characters pursuing right goals and succeeding. This was positive Romanticism of Victor Hugo, Ayn Rand, and reluctantly pursued but still positive Romanticism of Nanthaniel Howthorne in "The Scarlet Letter". In the declining years of Enlightenment however, Dostovesky became the king of negative Romanticism. Here what is right was indirectly demonstrated when main characters pursued wrong goals and failed. "Crime and Punishment" is the most vibrant story I can think of in this regard. Further, for Dostovesky whenever there was conflict between reason and emotion, emotion was given primacy. And here too Manu finally returns to Tanu, giving primacy to wrong emotions over right reasons.
So when we look at the goals of three main characters, only one goal is achieved, that of Tanu. And of the three goals, this is the one which is an irrational goal. The achievement of this goal is at the cost of Manu's and Kusum's goals, and requires their approval. True, here the connection between goals and means is not direct. The irrational goal pursuit almost fails, but for the sanction of victims. And pursuit of rational goals fail, because of the weakness of one pursuing. The final takeway is that if you give primacy to wrong emotions over right reasons, like Manu you will end up accepting misery - again.

Finally, I would highlight a scene of this movie, which I think is philosophically most significant scene in Bollywood to date. The one where Tanu encounters Kusum. She mocks her dressing sense, her personality. And she mocks Manu for sacrificing her for lady worth a dime. The answer she gets from Kusum is a perfect rebuttal. Her independence is questioned by presenting her dependence on father before, and husband later. She is told in no uncertain terms, that given her behavior, she does not deserve even iota of what she got. The dependence of Tanu is contrasted from independence of Kusum. Latter is a self-made national level athlete, and honestly earns for her family. The effect of this rebuttal, like any moral stand by a person of integrity against intimidating enemy, it shatters Tanu to the core.
Till  now manipulating and conniving Tanu is emotionally broken. True, she continues the tactics to attract Manu, but the confidence is all but gone. And she realizes that final outcome rests on the character weakness of Manu.

As an important sidenote, the movie and its interpretations are suffering from a major distortion. People are taking this to be an example of normal marital discord, and accepting compromise as a good solution. Nothing can be further away from truth. All marital arguments cannot be clubbed as being of same type. I think we should broadly classify three types of marital problems. One where both sides rationally evaluate options and conclude that there are irreconcilable priorities. An example of this can be husband-wife having different view of own and other's career, and hoping that other will make way for me to succeed. Then there are other types of fights, where too both have rationally evaluated, but one makes an error in judgment. An example of this can be a situation where the two are trying to evaluate their spending needs, and one suggestion proposes to sacrifice things that are necessary for them in life for luxurious or comforting items. And then there are situations like we have in the movie. Here only motivation for the spouse is to break the soul of her other half. Twisting words and narratives to distort reality, and extract disproportional guilt for actions. If this is the motivation and attitude, then no compromise can save except genuine change of heart. And given the cultural atmosphere we live in today, rarely are tools available for such change in late adoloscence.

Finally to conclude, I think the movie, though imperfect, is step in the right direction. Connected movies of Romanticism have power to motivate like few other art works can. We should learn virtues of Integrity, Independence, from the character of Kusum in "Tanu Weds Manu returns". And learn to give primacy to right reasons over badly understood emotions.

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