Rockstar Ranaut doubly delights in Tanu Weds Manu Returns!

Tanu Weds ManuNever judge a marriage by its wedding. Once the dazzle of unrestrained celebration fades out and rose-tinted glasses fall off the nose, stress of matrimony rapidly sets in leaving the best of couples struggling from disappointment and rancour.

Even the oddball couple of Tanu Weds Manu cannot escape this pressure despite their dramatic union in the frothy first edition.

In its follow-up four years later, they’re married and settled in London but domestic bliss is nowhere in sight what with all the bickering about their relationship’s monotony and expectations in a mental asylum.

Kangana Ranaut and R Madhavan aren’t exactly Tanu and Manu as we remember them anymore. She looks tied down, disgruntled and bored. He appears exhausted, embarrassed and out of patience. They haven’t lost their definitive trait, though. She’s still pungent. He’s still polite.

Anand L Rai’s sequel doesn’t delve into the space of how it got to this point but gives us a sense of what must have transpired through the nasty volley of accusations and insults they hurl at each other like only a husband and wife can.

His rollicking Tanu Weds Manu Returns explores the misadventures of a derailed marriage between two oddball characters and their conflicting temperaments through Himanshu Sharma’s piquant, jaunty script and a soundtrack (Krsna, Tanishq-Vayu) that wears a voice not just sound.

While the first one moved fervently between cities and small-town ambiance, the action in Tanu Weds Manu Returns, following a prologue in London, takes place primarily in Delhi, Kanpur and a village in Haryana.

Accents, twangs and dialects of various North Indian regions infusing Sharma’s zesty lines not only add punch and flavour in a conversation but humour too.

It’s an exceedingly funny movie aiming for full-throated laughs — predominantly thanks to the unstoppable riot that is Deepak Dobriyal (still giggle remembering him in one cardiovascular seminar speech scene) — at its zany two-hour duration.

At the same time, director Rai doesn’t take its titular characters’ emotionality for granted or drastically alter their characteristics to forcefully spruce things up. No, it continues to revel in their irreverence, indecision and irrationality at a more chaotic, comical scale with some new (and old) faces to boot.

Kangana plays one of them but I would not believe that even for a moment if the credits wouldn’t insist otherwise. The actress completely disappears into the feisty Kusum aka Datto, a Haryanvi hockey player studying in Delhi University under sports quota — a detail she is proud to remind anyone who dare demean her.

It’s not a major physical transformation per se, mostly a pixie-hair wig to tell her apart from Tanu. Having said that, her body language, which alternates between assertive and serene depending on the surrounding, and the sureness with which she rattles off her mother tongue is flawless.

Must say I haven’t enjoyed big screen Haryanvi so much since Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola.

And there’s Kangana again reprising her firebrand Tanu. All the refinement in her growth as an actress works favourably for Tanu and her London-acquired poise and eloquence. She’s still arrogant, unsure and an unapologetic drama queen drowning her sorrow in drinks and Geeta Dutt. The talented star’s calibre shines through in her understanding of a wife’s thinly veiled manipulations that are but an attempt to restore what she haughtily believes to be rightly hers.

Rai plays off Tanu and Kusum as two unique facets of feminism. While one’s an incorrigible rebel that equates liberation as acting on her wild wills and whim, the other’s an underdog whose accomplishments are entirely based on hard work and determination.

Although Rajesh Sharma’s (as Kusum’s brother) sudden surge of wisdom on women empowerment and casteism to a Khap-inspired gathering, while well intentioned, comes across as consciously preachy.

Tanu Weds ManuComing back to Kangana, the powerhouse makes it difficult to pick a side. I found myself bawling for both at alternate turn.

Madhavan’s Manu isn’t so likeable this time. What prompts him to react callously and chase novelty is somewhat extreme even if understandable given that Tanu is not exactly holier-than-thou, so keenly established and then reiterated in both the movies. Fortunately, Madhavan’s earnestness is tailor-made for forgive and forget.

Constantly bubbling with activity and jokes, the rom-com is vivacious in its myriad moods—whether it’s a local lawyer explaining the difference between divorce notice and plain notice, a party of Sardars dancing to dandiya in colourful kediyus, Jimmy Shergill tackling the ‘always the bridesmaid never the bride’ curse, Manu’s father (excellent even in a brief role K K Raina) spilling sarcasm over how to make marriages last, Swara Bhaskar and Eijaz Khan continuing their domestic banter, Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub adding to the mischief as yet another of Tanu’s roguish hanger-ons, Kusum showing off her ‘karata’ skills or Tanu’s whistle-worthy adas when she tearfully admits ‘abhi aur zaleel hona hai.’

Tanu Weds Manu Returns is not merely superior to its predecessor but the flamboyance and fun it provides is an implication we’re not quite done with this mad duo and their quirky universe yet.

Stars: 4

This review was first published on rediff.com.

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Bombay Velvet: Too bloodless to stun, too passionless to stir!

Bombay VelvetCluttered with reminders of the past, the Bombay in Anurag Kashyap’s brand new movie pretends to exist in the late 1960s.

Posters of classic movies and advertisements, archived headlines, trams and vintage car models, a city and its neighbourhoods still known by their original names, old-fashioned clothes and hairstyles, emergence of young technology, appreciation for refined pursuits and Bombay’s eternal enchantment with the silver screen fill up its amber-lit frames. The atmospheric detailing in Bombay Velvet is dedicatedly glitzy if not wholly familiar.

Though triumphant in technique and visual flourish, Kashyap’s unwieldy, unexciting throwback to the many myths and legends of the city of dreams, based on Gyan Prakash’s Mumbai Fables, never transports us back in time.

One doesn’t need to know an era personally to believe it nor does it have to be historically accurate. But there’s something about its both — limitations and strengths — that renders nostalgia attractive. Bombay Velvet paints a pretty postcard but not the soul of its decade.

It’s also painfully predictable –where even the sound of two bullet shots is enough to foresee the inevitable.

We’ve repeatedly witnessed two kinds of leading men in mainstream cinema — one who wins against all odds and one who does not. Bombay Velvet chronicles one of this much-documented interpretations through an over plotted narrative, which lumbers between a shallow romance of wounded souls and an on-going conspiracy among industrialists, media sharks, politicians, bureaucrats and mill workers.

Latter starts out as a fairly fascinating pitch to expose the irony and ugly origins of Bombay’s concrete jungle but shows disappointing foresight against its mad pursuit for stylised machismo.

Speaking of which, women in Bombay Velvet are nothing more than objects of rough affection or possession.

Yes, Anushka Sharma has a major role but her character never quite opens up to the audience. Madly oscillating between clammed up and coquettish, her Rosie Noronha is stiff not mysterious. Even when Noronha’s actions imply unconventionality and nerve, Sharma’s impassive performance doesn’t let us take notice. Her chemistry with Ranbir Kapoor’s Johnny Balraj is equally distant. They exhibit intimacy but no passion.

It’s a cold film about cold people but too bloodless to stun, too passionless to stir and too derivative to enthuse.

Where a guy who reacts to fights like sex and heavy-duty quarrel between lovers bizarrely transforms into a childish squabble reminiscent of a certain Raghu Jaitley and Pooja Dharamchand — Bombay Velvet is much warped for its own good.

It starts with promise though. A young Balraj, played by Yash Sehgal bearing astonishing resemblance to Ranbir, rescues Chiman from a gang of badgering bullies. It’s the sort of friendship that’s inspired several scripts in Bollywood of 1970s as well as the singular emotional space in an otherwise unsentimental setting.

Kapoor’s bromance with the excellent Satyadeep Mishra (as the adult Chiman) wears the sort of intensity and conviction that is found wanting in his ardour for Anushka.

Balraj’s entrance and ascension into the world of crime courtesy the city’s influential Karan Johar’s Kaizad Khambatta even as Jimmi Mistry’s (a smooth Manish Chaudhari comes closest to representing the era) newspaper editor and Kay Kay Menon’s remarkable cop keep tabs on his moves is unbelievably easy. As is his feverish fervour for Rosie and her subsequent seduction.

In trying to emulate the aesthetics of Scarface and Goodfellas sans the subtext, Bombay Velvet forgets to flesh out the motivations of Balraj’s one-dimensional darkness.

And no amount of Amit Trivedi’s spunky jazz and Ranbir’s incredible range can make demented look edgy. Rather his energy leaps out distractingly in the presence of calmer actors. One wouldn’t go to the extent of calling Karan Johar one but at least the filmmaker doesn’t embarrass himself. As the shrewd Khambatta, he exudes sophistication but certainly not the menace.

Bombay VelvetA dreary romance advancing against an ordinary crime drama controlled by a bad guy no one is scared of — quite early on in Bombay Velvet, a sense of exhaustion kicks in, which keeps on escalating into unbearable boredom.

Often contrived elements are pulled off when injected with personality and crisp dialogues. Hard to believe there’s nothing exceptional to quote or remember from a product helmed by the eloquent Kashyap.

There are exactly two whistle-worthy moments in the film. Both feature Raveena Tandon. The lady is all splendour and it’s a shame how little of it is makes it on screen.

Wondering what else got left out?

Stars: 2

This review was first published on rediff.com

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Review: A letter to Piku, gem of a film!

PikuDearest Piku,

I don’t know if I’m writing to you or to the movie that’s named after you. Perhaps both.

Everything about you and your precious relationships spoke to me, stirred me and I wish you could hear how deeply you touched me. Never thought I’d feel this way about a script that’s punctuated in toilet talk.

But as soon as the monochrome opening credits (with just a spot of red) begin to roll against the sound of sublime strings (Anupam Roy’s delightful score), it instinctively felt right, like interpreting a map correctly, like knowing a treasure awaits.

In the beginning, all of you appear so harried, so high-strung. The daily clamour of domestic dealings, a chaotic Delhi-based Bengali household and people not quite in sync, it is far from a good morning but it is home, it is familiar.

The commotion isn’t new to you; I could tell — when you didn’t mix your coloured laundry with your whites while dumping a lot in the washing machine.

Amidst all this stood the unyielding source of all the pandemonium and flying tempers, grumbling about his perpetual bowel issues. But, hey, he’s your daddy and parents become like that.

They annoy you even as you bark over an elevator kept on hold while they leisurely finish hitting the loo and gulping down one last glass of water before leaving the house, embarrass you by making that strictly private conversation public in front of colleagues and paying no heed to your surreptitiously poking finger and drive you crazy by their incessant ability to over pack.

Your irritation is understandable. One of the most heart-breaking things in life is to watch your parents age, the unexpected transition from being taken care of to taking care. Especially when you have just one left.

It’s a strange, inexplicable realisation that no child wants to come to terms with — when they can’t hear you properly, when you have to explain them things like you would to a child, when those alert, agile feet become slow, when the truth about ‘forever’ is more uncomfortable than ever. It’s almost as if they betrayed you by getting old.

Amazing how you convey this fear in your exasperation, Piku. Having said that, I must commend on how wonderfully you handle a hypochondriac, homeopathic-pills popping father whose every single dinner table talk, no exception for his deceased wife’s birthday celebration even, is a mishmash of salt and shit.

Also, that shade card jibe over his poop obsession is SO funny.

Lovingly penned by Juhi Chaturvedi and seamlessly directed by Shoojit Sircar, Piku moves at a life-like pace and cares to be a little more than a father-daughter chronicle.

All the characters – the dedicated domestic help, the family doctor, the extended family, the potential suitors, the petrified drivers, Piku, her constipation-ridden father Bhashkor Banerjee and one timely-intervention in the form of Rana ‘Not A Bengali’ Chaudhary running a cab service — are so distinctly fleshed out, they express a unique identity but form a fluent chemistry that’s both tangible and frothy.

And though its essence and ambiance is undoubtedly Bengali, Piku’s sentiments aren’t pigeonholed in cultural excessiveness, they speak in a language outside it and quite vigorously too. Like Irrfan Khan’s Rana puts it, “Sab cheezein Bengali ka copyright nahi hai.

Introducing Rana into the plot peels off the layers around Piku and Bhashkor’s relationship as well as the individual.

Demonstrating exemplary patience in driving them by road from Delhi to Kolkata, he is not only drawn to their mercuriality but also becomes an unlikely source of breakthrough. It’s the sort of trust he knows he’ll never inspire in his own turbulent family. Because, no matter how much quirk Piku celebrates, there are parents and there are parents.

Irrfan Khan conveys the composure, amusement and, on few occasions, vexation of his character with such awe-inspiring know-how, Piku would be half the film it is in his absence.

Travel throws us out of routine, reveals more about a person, to strangers, to oneself and Piku captures this discovery with refreshing spontaneity. And so when Howrah Bridge makes its first appearance, it’s not just a landmark to underscore destination arrival but a symbol of a connection that’s been forged between the three through the course of the journey.

I loved how Rana’s equation with you gradually develops during the same. How gently your guard drops and you open up into this tender girl finding a substitute to conventional life – marriage, children — in half a dozen glass bangles. Or when you flash a rare smile to admire your drunk, dancing daddy.

Your Piku is not very expressive and holds back her emotions but she’s only defending herself against hurt, because she loves so much. It’s a tough contradiction that Deepika Padukone does beautiful justice to even when slyly fulfilling her endorsement duties in smartly planted product placements.

Still, setting Piku in perfect, erm, motion is Amitabh Bachchan. Casting him in this role is a masterstroke for many reasons. There’s so much visible relish in the manner he portrays the candid-to-the-point-of-offensive Bhashkor.

PikuTossing bits of Bangla every now and then, making faces that reveal a child all the wrinkles and greys in the world cannot hide, the wonderment he exercises through his long-serving artistry dazzles more than ever.

Having grown up on his heroic fits of wronged or constructive rage to watching him, as the petulant septuagenarian who won’t budge in Piku is part of the emotional transition a child feels for his parent. It’s an incredibly special viewer-movie star bond, one that cannot be summed up without sounding cheesy.

The conclusion tugs the heartstrings even more so because of the vulnerability it triggers but mostly because how attached you become.

I grew so fond of your world in just two hours that I cannot stop missing it. Neither should the audience. I hope they can savour your sweetness, simplicity as well as laugh at your tummy troubles like I have. I hope they understand the thoughtful life’s lessons you impart through your light-hearted banter.

Thank you, Team Piku. It’s been a pleasure knowing you.

Much love,
Sukanya

This article was first published on rediff.com.

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