How Tanu Weds Manu Returns questions Societal Notions of Manhood and Womanhood



By Prerna Grewal

The eagerly awaited Tanu Weds Manu Returns proved successful in meeting the expectations of most viewers. Perky and fast paced, it was a roller coaster of laughter, having special significance for those who could trace a colloquial thread.

The cast, the music, and the time invested in exploring and portraying distinct cultures definitely deserve acclamation. While they contribute to the grandeur and charm of the movie, they also manage to shroud certain problematic elements within the movie. This article focuses on unveiling some of the darker elements from the comedy.

One of the major confrontation scenes in the movie, where the two doppelgangers (Kusum and Tanu, both played by Kangana Ranaut) encounter each other for the first time, is followed by a cold war of words where each is bent on dismissing and eventually demeaning the other. Kusum finally gains an upper hand over Tanu through various arguments. One of these arguments is that neither has Tanu been able to sustain her marriage nor has she been able to have a kid. Tanu and all her supporters are dumbstruck, seeming to accept the bitter truth, and unable to provide a defense. The following question looms over the entire dialogue, but no one seems to acknowledge or address it. Is having a child and somehow managing to sustain one’s marriage the only thing that validates a marriage or one’s being a (better) woman?

Why was Tanu, in spite of her wit and perkiness, rendered dumbstruck? One might argue that Tanu, unlike Kusum, had no other identity apart from being Manu’s wife, and therefore, is incapable of coming up with a defense. However, the fact that she is demeaned on the grounds of not being able to sustain her marriage or not having a child is in itself problematic.

The same argument can be extended to the revelation of the secret of Tanu’s friend Payal (Swara Bhaskar). Her friend undergoes artificial insemination to finally be able to conceive. At the same time, she does not inform any of her family members and carries the secret around as a mental burden. This again becomes reflective of the dominance of delineated notions of manhood and womanhood that pervade ours and, by extension, the society’s mindsets. The entire scenario manifests two major societal pressures; validation of one’s marriage through a child and validation of one’s womanhood or manhood. In fact, the two share an interdependent relationship.

Inability to reproduce often brings a person’s manhood or womanhood under society’s scrutiny. It is out of fear of society’s questions and derogatory labels that she decides to conceive through alternate methods. Further, she even refrains from telling her husband about it because he, being a product of the society and having internalized its notions over time, might also end up being traumatized.

Somewhere down the line, everyone needs to grasp the following lesson out of the movie – people, rather than being defined through preordained notions of masculinity or femininity, should be valued for their individuality. Being successful in sustaining one’s marriage or reproducing does not certify one’s womanhood or manhood.

Irrespective of the movie’s adherence to preordained beliefs, the movie also acts as a significant contributor in setting new parameters where one no longer needs a typical hero to make a movie work. Kangana Ranaut, through her commendable performance, proves capable of holding the entire movie together.

Apart from this, the supporting cast plays a major role and contributes to the humor and diversity of the film. In fact, Jimmy Shergill, despite being a part of the supporting cast and the villain of the prequel, ends up attracting more sympathy than the hero.

While problematic factors need to be acknowledged and analyzed, the movie’s charm lies in its ability to attract appreciation or positive criticism irrespective of these factors.