Tanu Weds Manu Returns and a Newspaper Column

Last Friday night I watched the much applauded Bollywood movie ‘Tanu Weds Manu Returns’. The motivation was this column by Mint Lounge editor Priya Ramani. The column written from a modern day feminist point of view extols the actions of Kangana Ranaut’s character ‘Tanu’, which reminded me of the movie Queen, a brilliant film by the way, and I thought this one would be such a movie as well, but boy was I wrong. Let’s dissect the movie based on the points raised in the column point by point.

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So the movie is about Tanu, a small town Kanpur girl, who is married to a doctor from Delhi and lives in London. It is shown that she’s fed up of her husband as there is little ‘excitement’ in her married life. Her husband, called a ‘sturdy slug’ and a ‘bore’ in the column, who provides for the family and gives her a stable and comfortable life, appears to have done everything on his part to keep her happy; from moving from Southall to countryside on her insistence to opening a creche for her as she claimed to be bored of doing nothing at home all day. In return he gets to see her entitled-self complaining about her life, flirting with random men in pubs, body-shaming him in front of others, and getting him a complementary admission to a mental asylum.
But then, that’s what ‘sturdy slugs’ deserve as per the column, including infidelity.

So next, Tanu goes back to India after leaving her husband to fend for himself in a British mental asylum, and with the symbolism of open, flowing hair, goes around engaging with her exes (note that the couple are not separated yet). But the poor ‘sturdy slug’ is still not over her (despite all he had to face from an ungrateful Tanu) and bumps into her lookalike in the form of a Haryanvi athlete called ‘Datto’ on the grounds of Delhi University. Credit where it is due, the character is very well enacted by Ranaut and in the movie. Datto appears to be a genuinely nice and understanding woman, unlike Tanu, but the tone with which the article is written, it barely mentions the character once and keeps on praising the virtues of a self-centered Tanu. Anyway, the two get emotionally involved and decide to get married. Knowing this suddenly Tanu has the longing to go back to her husband and make things right. She goes around looking for him and in one scene she is shown to have knocked the doors of his parents’ house. There she threatens them that if she wants she can send them to jail, of course, without their fault as the biased matrimony laws such as Section 498A, Domestic Violence Act among others have had a rampant history of misuse against innocent families, and Tanu seems to be aware of this. Dangerous woman.

Finally Tanu gets to meet Datto, and guess what? The kind of person she is, she ridicules her and points and laughs at her for being a rustic village woman. She calls her a ‘joker’, a ‘ganwar‘ and tells her husband that ‘She’ deserved better than Datto as it would ruin her reputation that her husband left her for an evidently unsophisticated woman.
Then Datto responds to her pointing out her hypocrisy by reminding her that she has nothing in her to flaunt about, that before the wedding she lived on the financial support of her parents, and post it on her husband’s, that she has bought nothing ever with her own money, and that she travels the world, boozes etc. on her husband’s credit card. She goes on to compare herself with Tanu that she has secured admission in DU through her own efforts via the athlete quota and that she’s a state level athlete. She further reminds her that unlike her she can fend for herself. Tanu is visibly startled and later blames her husband for not standing up to her. Well, why would any human at such condescending behavior?
Not surprisingly, the column fails to mention this part. By the way, it is to be noted that the creche her husband had opened for Tanu was closed as apparently as she made the children drink alcohol. Another example of her godforsaken attitude is when in an earlier scene post coming to India she ridicules a guest at her home working in an IT firm. Wonder what she had achieved to behave with so much of entitlement.

In the end, as it is a standard Bollywood movie, Tanu and her husband get together and the column exclaims as to why? How could Tanu get back together with her ‘slug’ husband, she should have in turn been with her ex and married him as she deserved better than her husband. Well, here I partly agree, even I wonder why they got back together. Despite such attitude and behavior of Tanu, why on earth did her husband decide to get back with her? (Well, one theory I can think of is he harbored the fear of being slapped with false cases; just kidding, not really, but think about it!)

So, in a gist, Tanu has achieved nothing whatsoever in her life, lives a comfortable life in London where she has everything she can ask for and that she could never afford on her own, she contributes little to her marriage and is unhappy because her husband is a ‘bore’, is ungrateful to the extent that she’s complaining all the time notwithstanding of admitting her husband in a mental asylum. She has a serious attitude problem, is condescending towards almost everyone, and is immoral to the extent that she threatens to falsely accuse people under the laws that are in her favor.
The column ignores all of the above and keeps on praising the spirit of Tanu.

Now I don’t care two hoots about mass Bollywood movies to devote a blog piece about them, but watching the movie after reading the said column made me ponder about the hypocrisy of the modern day feminist movement. Imagine if it were the man in the relationship doing the same because he felt the woman was a ‘bore’? Well, that movie is called Queen (again, a brilliant movie) and we have seen how similar behavior by the man was looked upon as. Even Ms. Ramani is all praises about it (rightfully) in the same column. But when it’s the other way around, the man is still the culprit. The man is always the culprit.

Think.

Bol!

Bol PosterBack in 2008 when I had seen this Pakistani film named ‘Khuda Kay Liye’ after listening about it on a Medium-Wave radio station, I was left pretty much stunned and amazed by the brilliant concept the makers of the film had thought of; and it was quite an apt and realistic story which ‘must’ have conspired with many Muslims after 9/11. The film was a very nice effort to show to the people the real agonies faced by the Muslims and Pakistanis in the world after 9/11! But what surprised me the most was that the film came out from Pakistan! Now fortunately I haven’t been one of those countless people in India who are programmed since a young age to loathe Pakistan, in fact I believe in what ‘The Times Of India’ says everyday, ‘Love All Nations Alike’; but still what I perceived of Pakistan back then was a nation ruled by a dictator where there must be no artistic freedom and people being supressed of their rights; and being a backward nation there couldn’t be adequate resources for them to have their own film industry which produced quality movies! So immature of me! But this flick changed it all!

Now when the same guy Shoaib Mansoor came up with his second film ‘Bol’ which luckily was released in India, I knew I had to watch it! So few days back I saw this another brilliant work by him and once again this fellow rendered me speechless!
A serious and thought provoking movie which focuses on the problems faced by many families in Pakistan (and India too) headed by overtly religious minded people who badly misinterpret and are blind and staunch followers of the lessons their faith has to offer. The movie though is based in modern day Lahore, one watching it here in India will also ‘feel’ the agony and the helplessness of the family portrayed even though there is vast difference in our upbringing in urban India and their life in Lahore; such amazing is the acting, the cinematography and the direction! The film is made to show that unspoken face of the Pakistani society which many tend to ignore or never think much deeply about! The problem of being a blind follower of one’s religion, bringing people in the world without proper means to look after them, homosexuality, poverty, education, misinterpretations of religion, corruption, generation gap etc. are some of the issues which have light thrown on them in this film which make it a bit too long but who cares until the story is sane and it grips you to the end.

The performance by Humaima Malick (Zainab) is worth appreciating. It was a difficult role I would say and she surprised me by doing it all so naturally. One statement mentioned by her telling her sisters to drop the Burqas (Islamic Veils) and live their lives freely kind of stunned me; for in a country which has its foundations based on the stones of its religion, such statement made in a mainstream film could have been controversial (It sure would have been if it was India). But it was boldly stated without any issues; it made me wonder about the broad-mindedness and openness of the people of Pakistan which is worth appreciating. Also the stunningword Iman Ali (Mina) does an appreciable job in the film.

The stark contrasts shown in the film, thanks to the amazing cinematography are worth mentioning; the many colors of Lahore from its congested lanes to swanky malls, from old mosques to lush fields; all this would account for your mini Lahore tour. Also the beauty of the Urdu language is clearly seen in this film! And yes, the music is too good and way above the kind of music we have in today’s Bollywood movies. I would like to mention the songs ‘Hona Tha Pyar’, ‘Kaho’ and ‘Mumkin Hai’ which are exceptional. And one thing I noticed that these songs have been carefully interleaved in the storyline unlike in Bollywood movies.

It is a wonderful movie and every sensible person should see it, but if you are one of those Bose DKs (the term I will use from now onwards for the ‘MTV Generation’ youth of India) who likes typical Bollywood movies with Happy Endings and at least 5 songs put in randomly and out of place, then this movie is not for you! Better go and waste your time and money on some crap like Delhi Belly, Bodyguard, Brother ki Dulhan etc.
Sometimes I wonder that if Pakistanis can make such evocative movies about social issues, why can’t our filmmakers in India? But again it depends on the kind of movies people enjoy for the filmmakers have to earn their revenues from them. And because of these Bose DKs our film industry comes up with something as disgusting as Delhi Belly and as stupid as Akshay Kumar movies. The last rational film I seem to remember in Bollywood was ‘No One Killed Jessica’.
In the end there are two things we need to learn from Pakistan:
1. How to make good music by reviving our pop music industry and
2. How to make sane and rational movies.