The Postmodern mores and Cinematic Expression: Dhiraj Kumar Nite

Tanu Weds Manu Returns (TWMR) is a commercial movie, and all signs are to make it a big money-grossing of this year. That said, let’s proceed. All commercial movies are necessarily an expression of socio-cultural and political proclivity of the movie maker. The logic of Investment shapes technological inputs; but the narrative strategy, cinematography and the conceptualisation of characters are, equally, the product of cultural and political locus of film makers. Let’s call this non-economic aspect of film making as the ethico-political logic and craft logic. The sexist form of cinematic characters are as much guided by the image of target audience shared by film makers as by the sexist discourse i.e., ethico-political logic, which the former often entertains. The movie of our discussion presents an enchanting ethico-political logic; the craft logic and the economic logic accompany the former to make it commercially viable. A superb combination of three distinguishes it from the so-called art movie.@Author

TWMR (2015)

TWMR (2015)

By Dhiraj Kumar Nite

Ethico-Political Logic of Cinematic Expression

TWMR brings two enamouring female characters who do share as much similarity as contrasting attributes. Both are women-in-rebellion in their own rights. They defy the tradition of cultural restraints set on the women by patriarchy. Tanu [Trivedi] embodies as much self-seeking modern conceit as, I suggest, a post-modern autonomist self. She seeks to freely flow in pursuit of a boyishly unrestrained, hedonistically rich and thrilling newness. However, she is bereft of any wishes for financial self-sufficiency. The financial foundation of her sparking adventurous life is the wealth of her parents, the boyfriend and the husband. She recognises dignity in labour, but she keeps herself away from such demanding fact of human life. As a whole her character is altogether novel imagination. She is not Anita (Praveen Boby) of Deewar, who was an equally infectious, iconoclastic discovery of the 1970s. She neither satisfies the definition of modern [bourgeois] womanhood, who is a companion of her male member to support his productive life and perform the role of an emotional anchor. Nor does she fit with the image of a modern female antithesis, who relishes financial self-sufficiency and transformative womanhood. I tempt to look at her as a post-modern womanhood in her status as a female thesis. The refusal to productivist paradigm of modernity is her distinguishing attribute. Abundance of necessaries of humankind to life is conducive to her refusal. At the same time, she does not regardthe female’s virtue in her reproductive function for the manly world. For any association with such considerationwould be a hindrance to realisation of her exploratory self. Marriage is a means than an end in-itself.

Datto, alias Kusum is one of the strongest female characters ever imagined in the Bollywood. She is distant from the retrogressive feudal tradition and the self-seeking moderns [bourgeois] conceit. She is at the cusp of refreshing transcendence. She seeks to win the world that is competitive. She takes pride in her ability of financially supporting the family or socially dependent kith & kin; relishes her agenda [rather than any burden of responsibility] of fostering a web of social relations/network; and commits to resist the latter when it attempts to overwhelm her autonomist, exploratory self. She nurtures the ethic of care, cooperation, and progressive transformation. For instance, in the course of seventh round of the Brhamanical ritual of marriage she enquires on her groom, her beloved if he is well-disposed to the final step. She decides to walk out, for she was not simply reluctant to marry to someone who is still emotionally attached to his first wife. She is careful of and cooperative towards a possibility of consolidation of love between self-deprecating Tanu and unsure Manu. She represents an image of, I tempt to suggest, a post-modern female antithesis. The latter transcends the self of feminist or socialist female antithesis, which was born in modern world and contributed to its progress. She is anyone but Indrani Sinha (Raakhee of Tapasya).

TWMR is decidedly neither a naturalist feature film nor realist. Damn, what to celebrate! It is in the league of some movies made in the recent times, which explore the grey areas of their characters. Dabang’s inspector, Piku’s daughter, Haider’s mother and son, Queen’s Rani: all of them perform their social functions with certain peculiarities. The villains are also grey characters; the hero and heroine also pleasingly indulge in the necessary ‘social vice’. Different classes intersect – at times collide with – eachother here and there. Tanu as a distraught person stumbles across a quiet beggar; the latter kisses her outreached palm and intends to offer a price for such weird thrill that visited him. Disconcerted Tanu moves on. It reminds the penultimate episode of Manto’s story A Woman’s life. In the latter Saugandhi was flustered at her rejection by the customer. Tanu is taken aback by her own realisation of the extent of dissolute condition, of acceptance by a destitute man. All this orchestrates something as much palpably earthly, which one would believe that a natural course of life witnesses; as fantasy for the world to entertain, even if not in the sight to descend soon.Needless to say, the realm of imagining of social characters is perilously fraught with the logic of investment. What is saleable sets the circumference, the limit. Therefore, Tanu and Manu return to each other to produce not just a happy ending, so notoriously characteristics of the Bollywood, but to satisfy the moral compass of the target audience. No explanation is sought for the change of hearts and minds between Tanu and Manu, who were so reasonably disposed to undertake separate strayed journeys till the previous moment. Here, TWMR loses an opportunity to lend us a cult movie. This is a recurrent feature of the story authored by Himanshu Sharma. There was no explanation on offer for the appearance of an uncommon lady, TanuTrivedi, known as batman, in Kanpur city in the prequel movie (TWM). Hobsbawm writes (On History: chapter, Postmodernity and History) that there is an increased tendency of exploring the meaning at the cost of explanation, which we find as a defining trait of the postmodernist literature.

The anti-foundationalist and anti-essentialist approach presents the aesthetics of meaning; of the politics;of the form; of the hierarchy. Let me digress to support my observation with what I borrow from a recent article of a cultural theorist,Fredrick Jameson, ‘The Aesthetics of Singularity’, New Left Review, vol. 92, March-April 2015.1. In our postmodern age we not only use technology, we consume it, and we consume its exchanges, value; its price along with its purely symbolic overtones. Similarly, the form of the work has become the content; and that we consume in such works is the form itself. In the modernist texts the effort is to identify form and content so completely that we cannot really distinguish the two; whereas in the postmodern ones an absolute separation must be achieved before form is folded back into content. Further, there is centrality of the postmodern economy, which is characterised as the displacement of old-fashioned industrial production by finance capital. 2.Only thing capital cannot subsume is the human entity itself, for which the attractive theoretical terms excess and remainder are reserved. The post-human is the final effort to absorb even this indivisible remainder.3.We have not yet entered a whole new era rather a new age of third, globalised stage of capitalism as such. Here, postmodern philosophy is associated with anti-foundationalism and anti-essentialism. This is characterised as the repudiation of any ultimate system of meaning in nature or the universe; and as the struggle against any normative idea of human nature. 4. What further distinguishes it from the old critiques of modernity is the disappearance of all anguish and pathos. Nobody seems to miss god any longer, and alienation in a consumer society does not seem to be a particularly painful or stressful prospect. No one is surprised by the operations of a globalised capitalism. This is called as cynical reason. Even increasing immiseration, and the return of poverty and unemployment on a massive world-wide scale, are scarcely matters of amazement for anyone. So clearly are they the result of our own political and economic system and not of the sins of the human race or the fatality of life on earth. We are so completely submerged in the human world, heideggerian ontic, that we have little time any longer for what he liked to call the question of being. 5. In our time all politics is about real estate. Postmodern politics is essentially a matter of land grabs. … Not to surprise,one protagonist of TWMR is a builder, another is a squatter, and the third is the issue of the location of housing in London between Tanu and Manu than the condition of house.

The craft logic of TWMR is scintillating. Every character is well chiselled. Every cast moulds herself/himself into the concerned social character. The use of close-up camera, not so popular in the Bollywood, demandingly tests calibre of actors. The narrative maintains suspense and well-proportioned subplots till the end. Editing carries pace of the narrative at an enjoyable and captivating scale. Cinematography weaves locales, which the audience would identify with and also chew it. The content, dialogue and body language successfully present a refreshing social drama rather than an electrifying comedy, for which it had immense spice to grow into at the hand of a director like Priyadarshan. Music and the songs are as much to bring out glittering, tormented or repenting inner self as to advance the story line. Finally, Kangana’s dancing effort is the rare occasion,where she bursts out as one actor involved in double roles.

Dhiraj k NiteDhiraj Kumar Nite, A Social Scientist, University of Johannesburg, Ambedkar Univeristy Delhi. You can contact him through


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2 thoughts on “The Postmodern mores and Cinematic Expression: Dhiraj Kumar Nite

  1. debojyoti das on said:

    great write up Dhiraj

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