Tanu Weds Manu has been on my list forever, so I was excited to sit down and watch it. And I didn’t like it. Which is a bummer, both because of my anticipation and because I know it was really popular and made a ton of money.

It pains me to say it, but clearly this movie was not for me. Which is why you can’t trust movie critics. 

I think my biggest issue is simply that this is a fantasy, and not a fantasy I have. Which is fine.

I did like the performances — both Manu (R. Madhavan) and Tanu (Kangana Ranaut) are a lot of fun and do their best to make their characters feel lived in and real.

Tanu is one of those troubling characters were everyone loves them but they are kind of a jerk and it’s not clear why they are so loved. She isn’t always direct, but she does stick up for herself (taking sleeping pills so she doesn’t have to meet an unwanted suitor, demanding the unwanted suitor call off the engagement, wanting to marry for love, saying no to a violent man). However, she doesn’t treat Manu particularly kindly, toying with his feelings.

Manu, for his part, is a kind, understanding man. You are supposed to root for him to get together with Tanu, but I mean……..why? Because he’s a man, and the protagonist? I mean, he’s nice, I wish him well, but eh?

There are three moments on the margins I really like:

1. Manu is introduced to a potential bride, Ayushi (Neha Kaul), who has an issue with her hand. It’s not clear what happened, and he is assured it will heal. It’s not in a cast or anything, it’s just crooked. The family assures Manu she can still do all of her work. We can see how difficult the marriage business is — she’s been disqualified over something that will heal! How difficult it can be to receive medical care; I think the implication is that she would get it fixed after marriage; why not fix it now? And the hand doesn’t interfere with her work. Not that she can live normally or do what she wants, but that she will be able to do the work of being a wife. So much laid bare in such a short scene.

2. Tanu admits to her friend that she basically does things because it will annoy her father/her father tells her not to. Besides dating men, she has also dated women. I’m curious about this statement: is it true, or just something to shock her friend? Is Tanu actually bisexual, or really just being contrary? I just liked her stating it and admitting it.

3. Tanu trying to elope with Raja (Jimmy Sheirgill). The man at the registry office is busy on the phone, not really interested in the couple. He can’t even find a pen to sign the certificate. In a business office, no pens! He tells them to return the following day. Narratively, it’s meant to shown that this is the wrong choice for Tanu, and contrast a secret elopement with a celebratory public wedding. But I love how it strips marriage down to its most base element: a contract that can be done or undone not by love or family, but by a pen.

Posted by Natasha

Natasha received her MA in Literature and Culture in 2008 from Oregon State University. Currently she lives in Oregon with her husband and cats.

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