A generally underwhelming love story cannot make up its mind whether it wants to be a romantic comedy or a romantic melodrama.
FEB 27, 2011 – FAR AWAY FROM THE MALLS and the multiplexes, there lies an India ripe for rediscovery. This is the heartland that lulls itself to sleep with the soothing tones of Ameen Sayani, as he reads out – as if from an unusually large laundry list – the names and locations of those who’ve requested the songs on his show. Farmayishi geet, he says, invoking a phrase that lies forgotten in this FM era, and Manu (R Madhavan) is one of the many listeners. Manu has made his home in London, yet his heart belongs in Sayaniland – we see him one night, at his parental home, beside a radio set as Mohammad Rafi caresses the phrase Teri aankhon ke siva duniya mein rakha kya hai. This song, this night, throbs with extra feeling, for Manu has located a woman worthy of those words – those eyes, the ones that Rafi claims are the only things that matter in this entire world, belong to Tanu (Kangana Ranaut), the spitfire that Manu was supposed to marry but who has now rejected him.
But Manu, the eternal romantic, has not been able to accept this rejection, and it’s not difficult to see why – he is, after all, a Rafi fan. The debate rages, even today, about who was better, Rafi or Kishore, but surely there will be no disagreement that Rafi devotees are more hopelessly romantic, more prone to pine. Manu offers proof at a wedding, when he prompts the rival antakshari team to launch into Abhi na jaao chhod kar. Tanu is in that team, the Tanu who didn’t want him for a husband – and yet he sits opposite her, smiling at her, saving her. But a little later, she launches into the boisterous Kajra mohabbat wala, a song where the heroine wore the pants (or at least the Pathan suit). Tanu may be a resident of Sayaniland too, but not for her the moony waltzes of Rafi. She is a doer, a go-getter, a free spirit, and a complete contrast to the staid, soft-spoken Manu. Remove the songs from the older era, and we’re back in Imtiaz Aliland, specifically Jab We Met, where a man of few words ran into a force of nature who’d change his life forever.
That Tanu will finally come around to Manu is a given – the film is, after all, titled Tanu Weds Manu. What’s less certain is why we should care. The opening stretch is mildly involving, with engaging performances and creepy-sweet moments like the one where a smitten Manu photographs an unconscious Tanu and then quickly looks around to check that he hasn’t been spotted. (Given the director Aanand L Rai’s penchant for underlining passion with old hits like Kabhi aar kabhi paar and Aankhon hi aankhon mein, I half-expected a radio set nearby to erupt into a Rafi number filmed over a similarly smitten man and a similarly unconscious woman: Chaudhvin ka chand ho.) But soon, Raja (Jimmy Shergill) makes an appearance, and the laidback romcom reconfigures itself into a turgid love triangle. The hitherto rebellious Tanu is reduced to – to take another instance from Sayaniland – Vyjayanthimala in Sangam, waiting piteously for her destiny to be decided as two friends clash over her. There’s even a gun that makes its appearance in the climax. The songs on the radio, however, have long since disappeared.
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