Tanu weds Manu or Testosterone Delhi!


A new wave is now clearly discernible in Hindi cinema. The emergence of Delhi as the cinema’s premier city to counteract the earlier Yashraj ‘flight from India’ but also the supplanting of Bombay as the rooted locus of film tradition. Welcome as this new grounding in the ‘national space’ might be it is achieved at some cost. Delhi in contemporary imagining is firstly a museum city at an important inflection point in India’s ‘global’ fortunes. Its monuments and structures are therefore available for audience ‘tourism’ and this move reflects to a great degree a new triumphalist national narrative. Equally it is the principal site where an ‘anthropology of the native’ is constructed and presented as the ‘remainder’ of modernity or the authentic ‘reminder’ of a valuable but ultimately pre-modern tradition. Old and New Delhi in essence face-off with the former being necessary for the illusions of the latter and that which must be ‘overcome’ in the latter *.

A more rooted cinema especially after the ravaging consequences of Yashraj formula cinema** should perhaps be celebrated even with all the above caveats. But some efforts are better than others. Most recently there have been three occupying this space. All examples of small cinema. Beginning with Do Dooni Char and then going through Band Baja Baraat and now most recently Tanu Weds Manu one finds ‘small’, ‘rooted’ films that are part of the ongoing self-interrogation of ‘Bollywood’ after the excesses of the 90s. Here Do Dooni Char can easily be nominated as the best film of this series, something that I have touched upon elsewhere and using Band Baja Baraat as comparison. It is worth repeating here though that it is only in Do Dooni Char that the ‘world’ or the film’s environment comes across most naturally and not vulnerable to the museum-piece impulses seen in the other two films.

Tanu weds Manu offers a half-serviceable narrative much like Band Baja Baraat and each film tries to make up for this by offering extremely stereotypical characters who are in constant emotional overdrive. And Delhi of course comes across in many of these films, and with some justification, as a very Punjabi city. But Tanu and Manu also has the fine Madhavan to make up for all its other hyper-active characters and he valiantly tries to inject a degree of sanity and sobriety into the proceedings. He largely succeeds and his character in some ways is not very far from Abhishek’s in Delhi 6. It is not just the hyper-active characters who are often made to supply the narrative momentum in these films but also the fetishization of the ‘rooted’ (whether the site is Delhi or UP). Whether it is Delhi*** or Kapurthala or Kanpur these cities giddily sway to the beats of Punjabi or other folk music morn to sundown and the ‘environs’ rather than housing the characters in any normal sense become the very point of the film. This is a ‘rootedness’ on steroids, screaming all the time ‘look at me’!

One certainly appreciates the authentic representation of so many aspects of Delhi life (and similarly so when the action moves to UP) but this involves once again an ‘anthropologization’. Not surprisingly this aesthetic then becomes the obverse of the Yashraj/Johar ‘love-and-longing-everywhere-but-in-India’ set of choices. The very same ‘gaze’ that fetishizes the ‘West’ as consumerist paradise (available on screen not as a ‘whole’ but in bits and pieces analogous to the way women have often been represented in cinema, as a collection of ‘parts’ rather than ‘bodies’) eventually turns its eye back home and discovers pre-modern natives to be ‘cut up’ in the same way. To access the contemporary urban Indian fully on board with the economies of globalization one ventures to London or NY or Switzerland. To access the ‘native’ who cannot or will not get ‘with the program'(!) one goes to Delhi or some cities in UP. With some overstatement one might risk saying this — these are two sides of the same coin.****

No one should be too harsh on Tanu weds Manu or Band Baja Baraat. These are both fair examples of cinema that at least concern themselves with rooted representations. But Do Dooni Char reveals how it is possible to avoid some of the pitfalls. Because here unlike those other two films (leaving aside the fact that the narrative is vastly superior and the director far more skilled in teasing out momentum from a naturalistic story without succumbing to the ‘chaos theory’ of bourgeois Indian life in urban centers) a ‘world’ is created which is not simply the sum of its parts. The director does not offer the Delhi tour here as the bonus for viewing the film! Much like those fantastically good ‘middle class’ comedies of city life that include principally the works of Basu Chatterjee and Hrishikesh Mukherjee or for that matter, and looking at the other side of the divide, Cheeni Kum where one only experiences that part of London which forms the immediate environment of the characters. The ‘geography’ of these films is organically linked to the plot and the characters. It does not stand in apposition to them. Which is not to suggest such an effort is not legitimate but that would also make for a very different film. The ones that are on the menu with both Band Baja Baraat and now Tanu weds Manu are just passable narratives for one but also simple confirmations of a certain multiplex vision of India. But the space of representation in cinema is nevertheless enlarged with these works which is why one should still find some gratification in their being made and becoming box office successes. If the ‘gaze’ here is questionable in a fundamental sense it at least takes in more than it did before. Not just London but also Delhi. As Do Dooni Char shows once a space is opened up there are several possibilities and therefore one must cautiously cheer all such efforts.

* In Rakeysh Mehra’s Delhi films both faces of this paradigm are presented in rather ambiguous terms. The young protagonists in Rang De Basanti are for the first half of the story completely disconnected from the political meaning and signification of these buildings that often appear as forlorn, mute structures in the dead of the night. In the second half of the movie as the same protagonists discover the responsibilities of citizenship (though their solutions are of course debatable and this too is problematized by Mehra inasmuch as the radical actions of the ‘actors’ here seem to mirror those of an older generation of freedom fighters.. furthermore in enacting those parts the actors are visited by those ghosts..) the same sites then become associated with state oppression.

In Delhi 6 a kind of foreign eye is trained upon the old city. A ‘native’ returns to his roots but discovers here not only ‘exotica’, alternately charming and claustrophobic, but also myth, mystery and violence. For all his immersion into this world he cannot quite become ‘of’ this world. The ‘black monkey’ symbol which is otherwise too vague works nonetheless as an emblem of the encounter between the deracinated protagonist and the ‘natives’. In other words it crystallizes a whole way of being that must appear incomprehensible to the outsider. In this sense the ‘error’ here lies in trying to occupy the native position by making the symbol concrete (becoming the ‘monkey-man’; some overtones here of the outsider/colonizer trying using his own ‘knowledge’ to master the native). ‘Death’ (as in Mehra’s originally intended intending and one he’s currently trying to return to) then follows.

In either case the city is not a ‘place’ where comforting ideas about either modernity or ‘rootedness’ can be easily accessed.

** Rather fascinatingly Yashraj has itself made its own ‘rooted’ turn in a variety of films and the most stand-out example here is that of Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi where the darling of diaspora cinema gets a rebirth as this twin character where at one end of the spectrum he seems pitiful in his small town ordinariness but at the other the multiplex hero is also strongly deconstructed. If this is intended to be a final historical judgment on the part of Yashraj the verdict comes out in favor of the ‘old’ in a rather startling reversal. Remarkable atonement on their part!

*** Delhi refers in my reading not just to the actual city but also including a certain wider representation of ‘North Indian’ small towns. These are all part of the same ‘Delhi’ continuum and suffer from the anthropological gaze I’ve detailed in the piece. Large parts of Tanu weds Manu are not set in Delhi but Kapurthala and Kanpur. However the representation remains the same irrespective of the geographical location and it is aligned with that ‘imagining’ of Delhi I’ve been referring to.

**** Note how the box office results of BBB and Tanu weds Manu have been rather different from Delhi 6 or even for that matter Do Dooni Char.

47 Responses to “Tanu weds Manu or Testosterone Delhi!”

  1. wow – what a great piece to read on a dull Monday Morning….
    The best line and offcourse I agree 100 % ( since I belong to Delhi) is-It is worth repeating here though that it is only in Do Dooni Char that the ‘world’ or the film’s environment comes across most naturally and not vulnerable to the museum-piece impulses seen in the other two films.

    DDC brought the authentic Delhi Look, but BBB’s Lingo and thea accent is the closests you can get to Delhi. I would also say that – DDC represents Delhi of the 80 and 90s whereas BB represents Delhi of today…..

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    • thanks Rocky..

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    • To give an example of the current Delhi- My cousin’s husband came to US (alone and he is just 30 years old) for a month on an assignments. Spent $400 to visit us for a weekend. spent $200 for carrying extra piece of luggage to India – says to me – Bhaiyya unke face par smile dekh kar mere $200 vasool ho gaye.

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    • Vicky Donor is another movie which totally nails the Delhi Lingo. the movie too is superb, speacially Annu Kapoor is class act !!

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  2. D-6 – the sets and everything were all authentic but for some reasons – woh sadee Dilli wali feeling nahee aa payeee…….every thing Felt pretty fake….

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  3. Aside- Saw Robot and YPD – Robot is pure genius, I wish there were no songs , ARR was bad here plus all of them looked forced ( Watching Ranjee sar dancing is a pain in the a.. anyways) as for YPD – WTF – it is a combination of Bunty aur Bublee and DDLJ. Watching Bobby act as a UP ka bhaiyya was a bigger Torrture than watching SRK acting as one in Don……

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  4. I saw some part (First half) and it has very authentic small city feel (Meerut,Sahibabad,Kanpur,punjab, Vaisno Devi). There are only two shots of Delhi. One T3 terminal and other rooftop one. May be in second half they show Delhi more.

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  5. Arbaz Khan-Instead of GRATTITUDE some people show ATTITUDE. Wah kya zamana aa gaya hai. Time will tell. Kabhi asliat ko bahar aane mein time lagta hai

    Successful people always have two things on their lips. “Silence” N “Smile”. Smile to solve the problem and Silence to avoid the Problem

    Anurag Kashyap-i have a lot of respect for Arbaaz , and also sohail and his father..i will never abuse them..

    Jamshid R to Anurag Kashyap-now start blaming @arbaazSkhan…remember he and Salman had given your bro the break when nobody was ready..Plzzzz

    Understand supporting ur bro but nt by showing others in poor light Especially @arbaazSkhan & @BeingSalmanKhan Show some respect

    Also did U ever thought what would hve happened 2 Abhinav’s carrier if he walked out from Dabangg as adviced by U. @arbaazSkhan

    Also You never came up with this sort of remarks when Abhinav was enjoying the laurels of Dabangg success…@arbaazSkhan

    In the end we public are the one who looses the opportunity to watch Abhinav and @BeingSalmanKhan combo again in a movie 😦

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  6. I guess no one has read the review or seen TWM 🙂

    Satyam – A request. Clean your slate and watch the movie again. I mean it. Replace Delhi with Kapurthala.
    **Spoilers**
    I do agree with “Tanu weds Manu are just passable narratives for one but also simple confirmations of a certain multiplex vision of India.” But its small city has more authencity unlike Yashraj films like BBB or RNBDJ. I do agree it has very stereotypical protagonist who studies hard (like most of the parents want from their kids);goes to London for work and returns to get married. It is like Hyderbad blues with added drama and conflict.

    ps – I guess I have attended too many marriages with train travel, that probably helped me in liking the movie more.

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    • Yes did know about Kapurthala.. but there were parts in Delhi (or am I completely mistaken?! thought there were ‘phir se Dilli’ references at points) and I suppose I should have clarified that I consider all of this whether it’s Lucknow or Kanpur or whatever (did mention UP here) as part of the ‘Delhi’ representation.

      To be honest sometimes a more theoretical kind of criticism makes one sound harsher on a film than is the case. Didn’t mind Tanu weds Manu at all otherwise,

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      • Movie has only two scenes from Delhi. Most of it is in Kapurthala (punjabi wedding) and Kanpur. The actors were very near authentic in accent. Especially the Bihari girl who marries the Punjabi boy.

        But yes movie could have been little tighter in middle portions.

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        • LOL, there goes the piece! Jokes aside barring a few lines here and there I would retain everything else including the title. But partly note how it all looks the same!

          I would like to see one of these subjects with the surroundings less ‘cluttered’.

          On a different note (and I couldn’t get to this in detail in the piece) Madhavan really held together the film in some ways. A very refined job for him and unsurprisingly though again it’s the sort of understated performance that doesn’t often get appreciated in India. But also the moment they have a restrained character they make for it by having a completely over the top female lead.

          In BBB of course both characters were rather loud, at least for most of the film. Ranveer Singh especially seemed to be simply doing caricature. From the looks of it he’ll be asked to do more of the same in his next Yashraj film.

          getting back to some of the stuff I wrote in the piece note how even BBB and Tanu.. with all the ‘authenticity’ are still mostly multiplex affairs. One wonders why smaller screens don’t really sign on. Specially since after years of Yashraj one would think they’d be happy to embrace some authenticity. But of course one needn’t wonder so much! These films are the other side of multiplex cinema. I think actually that if DDC had done well in multiplexes it would have had better single screen participation. But once a movie doesn’t run in those high end theaters they don’t keep it around for lesser ones unless the film is doing roaring business in these.

          Finally there’s that old canard about single/double screens or smaller centers (these days this means the small centers after subtracting multiplexes that might have sprouted up in them) preferring action to anything else. It’s not about the action however as much as it is that this genre represents fundamental conflicts better than any other. With Tanu or BBB you essentially have bourgeois comedies with no real conflicts. The other thing is that these audiences again expect ‘universal’ concerns in a film. I liked Aakrosh a lot but it didn’t run anywhere. Partly what happens is that again unlike the older films which were about ‘general’ and somewhat ‘abstract’ good-evil conflicts (and we saw this again recently in Ghajini and Dabanng) or about stories that did not necessarily code groups in more specific ways most of the contemporary stuff has this ‘ethnographic’ impulse, perhaps in the service of a greater realism. But once you put up those ‘signs’ and ‘markers’ the film becomes open to critique at a whole different level. And especially a ‘native’ audience can spot the holes.

          But this whole point about the ‘universal’ is from my perspective yet another way of critiquing multiplex cinema where for the most part audiences are quite happy to see no more than their own specific cultural conditioning displayed on screen. But it also reflects a certain move away from politics in this segment because these people have been the major beneficiaries of Indian liberalization and the ‘deal’ in these contexts is always to take new economic empowerment and the pay the price of some political ‘defanging’. Not that anyone forces them to do so. Just that these audiences are now much more socially mobile than was possible in the past (this is of course a good thing on its own) but they also have ‘Indian values’ in the box. So there has been a peculiar kind of emancipation which also incorporates within it some very traditional, even regressive social impulses. This is quite unlike the Western model for example.

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      • Sataym – Dilli and U.P mein wohee Faraq hai jo Madrasi and Hydreabadi mein hai !! LOL( copied from Chak de India)
        Dabang/Omkara/Tashan/ Ganga kee saugandh are U.P. whereas Chandni/BBB/DDC/RDB/JBDY/ are Delhi.
        Delhi has that akhkhad Punjabi/haryanvi touch , U.P is divided into Two halves- western Up is Jaat language like Omkara wheras eastern UP is softer – like Dabang and Tashan

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        • yes but that distinction isn’t preserved in the way these movies are filmed where it all might as well be the same! Referring to just the three I mentioned in the piece but one could include some others too. I wouldn’t place Dabanng or Tashan or Omkara on such a list. My criticism here is similar to the one I had with RGV’s Bombay in Satya. It is an authentic representation but it is also one that is less particular to Bombay and far more in keeping with certain global South representations of major metropolitan centers. And this is not just about Hindi films. Even from around the world one often comes across films set in Mexico City or Sao Paulo or Laos or whatever that might as well be all the same. of course there are specific differences but the cities are approached by a similar ‘gaze’. They’re all racy, frenetic, overwhelming… etc places. On the other hand you have angst-ridden ‘city of sadness and solace’ portrayals (DG belongs to this group) where again many cities from East Asia to Latin America can be accommodated. If you looked at RGV’s Bombay and then Rohan’s in BM you’d think these were two different cities. Because each director brings in a very different perspective. But with these films I’ve talked about in the piece and some others it’s all the same. Tanu features Delhi, Kapurthala, Kanpur, Lucknow. They’re all the same. Yes the lingo on which I’m not an expert anyway might be different and authentic as Munna points out, there might be certain cultural features represented that are more specific to Kapurthala as opposed to Delhi but if you turned down the volume we could be in Delhi’s old city or Kanpur or a host of other places. It doesn’t really look any different. On the other hand Rathnam Delhi in Dil Se is an extremely different city. I’m not talking ‘realism’ here just the vision a director has of a city. Otherwise even in those other examples I referred to Sao Paulo does look different from Mexico City in certain obvious ways. Specially when they focus on the favelas of the former. But that ‘difference’ is not allowed to play itself out in many of these films. It’s like this — you could bunch together NY and Chicago and LA as big chaotic cities and make them appear similar on screen. But the distinctions are profound. The three cities are profoundly dissimilar in important respects. Much as Bombay is not Calutta is not Delhi. There is as I see it two kinds of Northern representation in Hindi cinema currently (and you could perhaps correct me on this). On the one hand the old city (Delhi)/small northern town which is very claustrophobic and frenetic and houses hyper characters and so on. On the other the UP/Bihar badlands, a sense of greater space where perhaps again a great deal of cultural variation is flattened out but this ‘geography’ does overall better in Hindi cinema than the ‘Delhi’ kind though it is also presented as regressive. Now there might be a certain sincerity in all of these instances with respect to the language but otherwise there doesn’t seem to be very much that sets them apart (that is on each side of the divide).

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        • you wrote such a long reply but not a single word on my brilliant joke !! ( sad face)

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          • LOL, that was a good one. Didn’t remember that from CDI. But then I’ve only seen the film once and have had very little desire to see it again.

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          • LOL !!….or for that matter face the ire of SRK fans again …….

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          • People would be waiting for Failure of.. 4,5,6 😉

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          • Rocky, LOL, the greatest sin known to mankind since the bite at the apple was not liking CDI!

            Of course I did find it watchable enough. Just didn’t find it to be the ultimate offbeat film as many pretended it was. This is what facing pressure for years from Aamir does to you!

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    • ideaunique Says:

      i actually liked TWM and would take it any day over any of KJO’s films (can’t say the same about YR’s films though…) but while Maddy was cast perfectly here and he did a helluva good job – kangana, despite all the flak she is getting for poor dialog delivery, did an amazing job – i really liked her and didn’t mind here dialog delivery also…..it was refreshing to see her as not so polished as we see the heroines in KJO/YRF films…..she was plain average looking in many scenes and that made the story of the film more endearing……all and all…..it was really a feel good movie….

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    • I would agree that Tanu weds Manu is the most authentic representation of ‘Delhi’ or the ‘Northern’ (in this imagining Delhi or Lucknow or Kapurthala or a number of other cities would be represented in exactly the same way.. which is part of my point) because it is the most detailed. And this is why I ultimately came out on the side of the film. However this kind of authenticity is built up on the accumulation of detail, this is its greatest strength but also a significant weakness. The latter because it never aspires to anything more universal. So this is the ‘big fat North Indian wedding’ if you will! On the other hand in a yesteryear Amol Palekar comedy you’d have a character trying to get on the bus everyday but being out-elbowed by everyone else. The same character would be rather meek at the workplace as well. So on and so forth. You’d get a good slice of Bombay life in such a film but the director never had the ambition to present the city as a compendium of anthropological detail. With Tanu weds Manu or some of these other films (to a greater or less degree) Delhi and/or small town Northern Indian life is first of all essentially the same because the eye of the director sees the very same elements in both cities which for want of a better word is a picaresque view of things. There is always an excess of ‘life’, a frenetic quality to the proceedings all round, characters who generally operate at the highest emotional pitches and so on. Now can one actually experience all of this in those towns or cities? Absolutely. But the Amol Palekar film tried to do something more than this. What I fear happens in many of these contemporary films is that a Johar kind of impulse is very well-couched within these layers of ‘native’ life. both Tanu weds Manu and BBB are often not that far from those 90s films except for the ‘bottling’. Now this isn’t ‘nothing’ and additionally there are sometimes more progressive characterizations (so the Tanu character is a caricature but still is accepted for who she is which is a far cry from the change Kajol has to undergo in KKHH). But it’s still different from Do Dooni Char where one sees that more ‘universal’ aspiration.

      Again don’t mean to sound too harsh on Tanu weds Manu. I’d gladly see 10 films like this every year. But I also think it’s about time we saw Delhi or North Indian small towns presented in a somewhat different way.

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    • I’ve made a slight change in the piece at one point at added a brief note to explain the ‘Delhi’ continuum as I see it. But I should have been more careful in the piece at some other points too. Partly I suppose I was really writing something on a certain Delhi/North Indian representation in films and Tanu weds Manu became the latest example.

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  7. iffrononfire Says:

    “But I also think it’s about time we saw Delhi or North Indian small towns presented in a somewhat different way.”

    that is why there has been a rise in regional cinema in big way now in every part of india as people feel it comes more closely to describe native culture in big way

    haven’t seen tanu weds mannu so can not comment on movie but ya one just can not impose the culture of delhi as synonymous with other north indian cities as there are subtle distinctions

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  8. Another five years to modify, five more to finalise star cast and he will be ready to begin shooting by 2021.

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  9. Jealousy rules Bollywood: Kangana

    Mumbai, Mar 7 (IBNS) She’s outspoken and not one who’s afraid to rustle a few feathers with her comments. And she was quite in the mood when she came to the sets of ETC Bollywood Business.

    In a candid chat with host Komal Nahta, Kangana Ranaut confessed that as an outsider – an actor without industry pedigree – she felt angry at the ones who had it.

    “I’m angry at some people in the industry. If the star kids fly a kite, so much is written about it. And when people like me win international awards, we are ignored. People from the industry send gifts to mediapersons’ homes, invite them for dinners, send money to them…90% media toh unke chacha, taya, betiyaan aur boyfriend se bhaare huye hain! Outsiders like me are left out because, ‘She’s not blue blood naah’!” fired Kangana.

    “No room for love…only jealousy rules Bollywood!” she said.

    At just 23 years of age, the beautiful Kangs does get very affected by the rumors floated about her.

    “I’m just 23 years old. So when people write that are malicious and untrue, that malign me, I do get hurt.” Ouch… The feisty girl still wasn’t done, as Komal realized.

    She continued, “Softer feelings like love and compassion are ignored here. Jealousy bahut hain iss industry mein. Kaafi log apna time aur paisa kharch kate hain doosron ke bare mein galat khabar chapwane mein!”

    Taking a cue from her on screen persona of Tanu (from the film ‘Tanu Weds Manu’), Kangana sure still has some acidic comments.

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  10. alex adams Says:

    Agree with Kangana there!
    Anyhow, surprised that she is still only 23 years ago..
    By that rate, aditya pancholi should be convicted for paedophilia!!

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      • Note how slyly Nahata plugs RNBDJ here! The idea that 99% of reviewers mauled this film is a blatant lie, not just misrepresentation. The idea that this did more than D2 is another joke. Even otherwise it’s laughable how Nahata pretends to be the paragon of virtue here! His own reviews are based entirely on what he thinks of the box office prospects of those films. But nonetheless I put up these videos here because Kangana says it in her interview and here Nahata also admits to some of the manipulations that go on all the time. Of course everyone excepts themselves! I take Kangana more seriously because her statement is quite undiplomatic!

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  11. just saw TWM and omg it is such a bad, boring and fake movie..BBB is 200 times better than this crapfest….Madhvan is so wooden and uniteresting, bilkul thaki hui movie., jhelna mushkil ho gaya ..no logic, full of coincidences, loud acting , bad songs.to compare it with BBB and DDC and D6 is a crime…..

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    • Didn’t mind it as much as you did but couldn’t quite see why so many liked it so much either! It’s done more than BBB and DDC put together!

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