It is a tribute to “India Shining” that the latest popular “away” location for the Hindi film industry is not Switzerland or Mauritius, but the semi-urban environs of North India, where the regional patois offers as much authenticity as the Mumbaiyya Hindi dialect. There’s been a rash of movies based in the North recently, like Dev D., Delhi 6, and of course, Band Baja Baraat, which made stars of two very ordinary looking people by focusing on a tight script, clean editing, and the colorful North Indian wedding ethos.
TWM attempts to cash in on BBB’s success by hewing to the same formula. The script is crisp, the language salty, and the plot heavily depends on the raucous chaos of an Indian wedding.
Despite the tradition it seeks to exploit, TWM’s wedding celebrations are more Monsoon Wedding than Hum Aapke Hain Kaun. In a clever nod to the changing times, we have Tanu (Kangana Ranaut), a foul-mouthed, cigarette-smoking Kanpur girl who sole raison d’etre is to rebel, but who is, nevertheless, adored by her hapless parents. Her antics only endear her to Manu (Madhavan), a London doctor in town to get married by his parents.
Much plot-twisting happens before the two get together in classic filmy ishtyle at the end.
Indian filmmakers (at least some of them) seem to have woken up to the fact that a good script and screenplay can achieve decent box office returns and have the advantage of being able to keep costs down by reducing the need for star power. TWM chugs along briskly, with excellent turns by the accompanying ensemble cast. There are a couple of holes in the logic, but the pace keeps you from pondering them too long. But if the movie is representative of the social mores in India today, boy, have things changed. Tanu is obviously sexually experienced, but this fact appears to be a mere footnote in the proceedings, daunting neither her parents nor her suitors. Kya baat hai! If it wasn’t for the fact that there are still incidences of honor killings of caste-crossed lovers in India, I could almost believe the premise.
Where the movie stumbles is in the casting of Ranaut as the feisty, trash-talking Tanu. Ranaut has a chameleon-like ability to blend into her movies physically, so that her look here is a 180-degree turn from the drug addicted model in Fashion, but her voice modulation is just awful. And, let’s face it, she cannot do “chulbuli.” Her talents are much better suited to the dramatic roles that have been her forte so far. One can see why she would seek out a role that would stretch her as an actress, but she is just not right for this role. Kareena Kapoor’s turn as the irrepressible Geet in Jab We Met somewhat approximates the Tanuja Trivedi character, and while that performance was not exactly award-worthy, Ranaut as Tanu falls far below even this standard, and drags the movie down. Madhavan, on his part, is endearing as the lovelorn Manu, and his lack of charisma doesn’t affect the movie much.
Another plot weakness is the denouement. Without spoiling it for the reader, let me say that Tanu’s volte face in the final moments is quite unbelievable and I wouldn’t give the new relationship a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding. The rapid turn of events in the climax leave a slightly sour taste in what should have been a fairy-tale ending.
Still, TWM is a pleasant watch for the most part. Director Aanand Rai puts in some clever touches, like the sangeet performed to the oldie “Kajra Mohabbat Wala,” and the supporting cast, led by Swara Bhaskar as Tanu’s clear-headed friend Payal, is excellent. Krsna’s music is pleasant, with touches of the Hindustani semi-classical tradition. Watch TWM on a good, legal print on DVD when you’re in the mood for a nice Bollywood film.