A predictable love triangle, buoyed by some deft, startling sequences and accomplished star turns
At the end, when you see the sum of its parts, Tanu Weds Manu turns out rather flat. But till that point, the movie is an absorbing description of middle-class gentility in Uttar Pradesh and the wistful preoccupation of this society with matrimonial alliances; as though it actually believes that the chaos of urban life in Kanpur and its rapid descent into a cesspool of caste and criminal rivalry will miraculously decelerate if Tanuja Trivedi marries Manoj Sharma.
The first hour of the movie is a funny, quaint, ironic look at how the business of marriage is therapeutic, not perhaps for those persuaded to tie the knot, but for parents, siblings, cousins, friends and casual acquaintances. Looking for a suitable boy or girl demands networking, and if a match is made, no matter how potentially disastrous, it is seen as a coup of sorts. If it is called off, despondency reigns until a new match is conjured up.
Self-deprecating to a fault, Dr Sharma (Madhavan) describes his job in London as an odd combination of engineering and medicine (he works on pacemakers). He is not the dashing groom of a romantic movie, but a staid, reserved, gentlemanly fellow who is sceptical about arranged marriages, but lonely enough to accede to one.
Tanuja (Ranaut) is his opposite, conscious of her looks, head full of flighty ideas, attracted to hazardous men. She likes the dodgy Raja (Shergill) and is determined to marry him.
A predictable triangle, you would think. But then a few things are said, and a few scenes elaborated, in ways so startling, so moving and so well acted, that set pieces dissolve. As a doctor would, Manu makes an unforeseen diagnosis, explaining to Tanu how he fell in love with her, and then asks, all choked up: “Is that my fault?”