Anand L Rai, Bollywood’s Man of Happiness celebrates his birthday today and we thank him for giving small town India a toe within the metropolitan, Swiss Alps and other foreign locales obsessed industry. Rai has made Kanpur sexy and Benaras revolutionary…We celebrate this remarkable Birthday Boy’s journey as he makes us realize that India is about Oh! So Much More!
‘Strangers’ is what his debut movie was called, and stranger he was to the ways of Bollywood, and this lack of typical ‘Bollywoodness’ has given us a rich and personal space in the world of popular Hindi Cinema, the small town love story in all its glory and depth.
Starting out with an Alfred Hitchcock remake, Rai went on to slowly gravitate towards the one space that he was going to rule soon and how. His second outing at the matinees was a story of compassion and inspiration ‘Thodi Life Thodha Magic’
But he really got into his element with his third release, ‘Tanu Weds Manu’, starring Kangna Ranaut and R. Madhavan along with Swara Bhaskar and Deepak Dobriyal playing pivotal characters.
Any small town resident in their twenties and thirties will smile quietly at the challenges of getting married back home. It is not that, these towns are any different from Balli Maran in Delhi 6 or the high rises of Meera Road, a far flung Mumbai suburb. And thus, Anand L Rai reaches out to everyone, who knows what ‘settling down’ in India is all about. In ‘Tanu Weds Manu’, Kangana Ranaut’s character dresses up in loose ‘shalwars’, wears aviator goggles, smokes and drinks when she pleases. She is the complete anti-thesis of the matrimonial ad, mothers brandish in front of their ‘well-settled’ NRI sons.
Kangana’s character is a rebel, not realising that sometimes the straight way out is indeed the best. She is hung up on the idea of love in a city where it is still considered a highly unlikely phenomenon. This is Kanpur known for its jutees and particularly tedious match-making processes. Would be in laws meet formally and breaking the ice is a sensitive phenomenon that requires great understanding and dexterity. In the movie, Madhavan and Kangana’s parents heave a sigh of relief when they realize that the older generation has much in common and thus the matchmaking can continue without a hitch. Though a minor component in the film, this is an important ritual for any arranged marriage as both sets of parents can look into a future where, any misunderstanding whatsoever can be sorted by them, given the warmth they have felt for each other. In a way, this makes the marriage and the commitment more binding for everyone involved.
One-sided love is a universal phenomenon, but in small towns it is actually considered a rites of passage. All of us, who have ever lived in mono-lane roads, six o’ clock curfews and rationed pocket money will have experienced it at one point of time or the other. It is a tough yet benign feeling and given the societal and personality pressures involved, sharing our feelings with friends, cousins and whosoever is a closet agony aunt helps us feel rarefied, dignified and pure.
‘Tanu Weds Manu’ follows an interesting trajectory with the girl being raucous, loud, and irreverent and the boy being the very image of goodness… This grey verses white leads to a dramatic ending albeit on a happy note.
In ‘Raanjhana’, Rai touches upon the thorny issue of inter-community marriages that remain a taboo to this day. The complicated three way love story is filled with poignant moments of one-sided love, longing and standing up in tough situations. The intellectual environment of JNU, the political movement and the dichotomy between the liberal space at your place of education and the stifling conservatism at home are brought about beautifully. This compartmentalisation of life and relationships has led to many breakdowns, both personal and familial. Love takes on the hues of Sufism, surpassing every other banal human emotion and sacrifice becomes the need of the hour…The chance physical closeness due to political activities actually brings out the painful reality that pulls down the younger generation even today.. You might change governments, sit over endless cups of tea, share a cigarette, cry on each other’s shoulders, but you cannot and shall not present these really special bonds as prospective marriage rishtas back home and thus ‘Raanjhana’ ends in tragedy. Kudos to Rai, that there is closure even in this pathos filled ending as a dying lover declares with serious determination that given another life, he would change nothing.
‘Tanu Weds Manu Returns’ brought with it the Shakespearean comedy of errors route, a hit since the bard wrote Twelfth Night, with a pair of lookalikes as the centre of attention. The film follows the couple from Tanu Weds Manu, in their fifth year of marriage, unhappy and frustrated with each other…The love has dried up and now what remains is the complaints and failed hopes. And yet, the two come back to each other, egged by friends, destiny and that four lettered word called love.
Happy Birthday to the Man, Who Is in Love, With All the Right Ideas about this very complicated but much needed emotion