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Tanu Weds Manu Returns: Jat Haryana Versus Jatt Punjab

By Dr. Sawraj Singh

After her big successes in Tanu Weds Manu and Queen, Kangana Ranaut does it again in Tanu Weds Manu Returns, a sequel to the earlier hit film. Usually, sequels do not reach the same level as the original. However, in this case, it exceeds the original. In this film, Kangana has a double role. It will be no exaggeration to say that Kangana Ranaut is at the top. This film not only received great reviews, but also proved to be a big success at the box office. In all three movies, Kangana played very different characters.

In Tanu Weds Manu, she played the role of Tanuja, a non-traditional and rebellious Indian girl. The plot revolves around Manoj, an Indo-British doctor, wanting to marry a traditional Indian girl. However, Tanuja is anything but a traditional girl. She drinks, smokes, uses drugs, and has sexual relations with many men. In spite of these stark differences, Manoj likes her and marries her.

In Queen, Kangana transforms from Rani, an ordinary, docile middle class girl, to an independent, strong, and confident woman. This transformation takes place because her fiancée breaks up with her right before their marriage. She was supposed to go to Europe for their honeymoon. Even after the breakup of the relation, she decides to go ahead with the European trip by herself. This trip makes her a different woman.

In the movie Tanu Weds Manu Returns, in addition to her original role, Kangana plays the role of a Jat girl from Haryana. I feel that in the movie, this is the main character and is responsible for the success of the movie. I feel that not only this Jat girl becomes the representative of Haryana’s rural youth, but represents the whole of Haryana. When I saw another successful movie, Chennai Express, I felt that the movie compared North India to South India. My comments were very much appreciated by many people. This time, I feel that Tanu Weds Manu Returns compares Haryana and Punjab.

Kangana plays the role of Kusum, a Jat girl from Haryana who is a successful athlete. Kusum is from Jhajjar, where her family home is. However, she lives in Delhi with her brother for her athletic training. In this character, Kangana portrays the positive traits of the Haryana Jats such as simplicity, boldness, clarity, and self-confidence. She is very optimistic about her future. She repeatedly says that whatever status she has achieved is because of her efforts and struggles, and that she is among the top athletes of her state. Kusum is a simple and straightforward girl. However, she is bold, unwavering, and self-confident. She is not afraid of moving around in Delhi by herself and feels that she can fully handle a situation if someone tries to eve-tease her or force their will on her. Manoj (the Indo-British doctor), now divorced, is attracted to her, but he is hesitating and wavering. In their relationship, Kusum plays the dominant role and she sets the course of the relationship. This is an inter-caste relation because Manoj belongs to the Brahmin caste. Kusum’s brother accepts the relation partially because he himself had an inter-caste marriage. In spite of this, Kusum feels she should seek acceptance from the rest of the family. She tells Manoj that they can face opposition from the family, which can even turn violent. However, Kusum is confident that in the end, she will prevail and they will accept the relation. The family at first opposes the marriage and because of the wise intervention by the brother, agrees. Then comes another turn in the story, Tanuja (the ex-wife of the doctor) realizes that she still loves him and she wants to withdraw the divorce and make amends with him. Manoj is going through the marriage ceremony, but he is not sure what he should do. It can be considered the climax of the movie when there is only one more “phera” (customary round) to go and Kusum tells Manoj that this was the last round after which they will become husband and wife. It will be difficult to come out of the relation then. If he is not sure that he should go through with the ceremony, then they should stop the ceremony. They stop the ceremony and Manoj goes back to Tanuja, his first wife.

I feel that that by her role as a Jat girl from Haryana, Kangana might have inadvertently compared the situation of Haryana’s youth to Punjabi youth and even compared the condition and direction of the two states. The Jats are the leading community in Haryana and the Jatts are the leading community in Punjab. Only one vowel (in Punjabi) separates the two communities. However, they have taken very different and almost opposite directions. On the whole, compared to other communities, the Jatts of Punjab have taken a leading role in giving up their traditional lifestyle and adopting the western lifestyle. The Jats of Haryana on the other hand, have tried to preserve their traditional lifestyle while adopting the present model of development. We can apply any criterion and the fact will become obvious: Haryana is beating Punjab. Haryana has already moved ahead of Punjab in per capita income. Punjab used to be the dominant force in the field of athletics. However, now Haryana has moved much ahead. In the sixties, I vividly remember a procession of the athletes who won gold medals in the Asian Olympics in Patiala. I saw that all of the athletes were from Punjab. Now, most of such medal-winning athletes are from Haryana. Twenty-six athletes have been chosen from the North region for special training for the upcoming Olympics: sixteen are from Haryana, nine are from Punjab, and one is from Himachal Pradesh.

Whereas the Haryana youth try to make their future by struggling in India, the Punjab youth only sees their future in migrating to other countries. Kangana Ranaut represents Haryana youth who have self-respect, self confidence, contentment, and are hopeful about their future. The Punjabi girls are mostly looking for NRI husbands as a shortcut to success. Whereas Haryana girls want to struggle to obtain the status which they deserve, the Punjabi girls are very happy to accept a much lower status in order to migrate to other countries. Highly-educated and qualified Punjabi girls are anxious to become nannies in foreign countries. This is equal to a career of a Mai or a Dai in India. However, the same word, if translated into English as Nanny, becomes very respectable and attractive.

Generally, most Punjabis, at least in the beginning, have to accept jobs of much less status compared to their qualifications. These jobs help them to settle in the other countries and many do very well later on. However, there are no studies available to show if they leave some invisible scars which last for a long time in the subconscious mind, even if we do not remember them consciously.

Today, frustration and lack of direction in the Punjabi youth is pushing them to alcohol and drugs. Consumption of alcohol and drugs is at an all-time high in Punjab (no pun intended). One effect of these is impotence and infertility among Punjabis. We see this problem in the film where the wife of Jaspreet Singh Jassi, a Punjabi friend of Tanuja, resorts to artificial insemination and sperm donation. I talked to a very well-known writer who also practices medicine in the Chandigarh area. She moved there from Mumbai. She told me that in the cosmopolitan city of Mumbai, she met women from different communities. All of them always considered Punjabi (Sikh) men to be a symbol of potency. However, she is very unhappy when she has to see many Punjabi young men, particularly from the JattSikh community, suffering from impotence and infertility.

Haryana and Punjab have taken different courses and both face different challenges and problems. A large area of Haryana is being incorporated into the National Capitol Region (NCR) and it therefore risks losing its identity. I feel that in the long run, a community which preserves its culture, values, and traditional lifestyle, will come out winners.

Dr. Sawraj Singh, MD F.I.C.S. is the Chairman of the Washington State Network for Human Rights and Chairman of the Central Washington Coalition for Social Justice. He can be reached at sawrajsingh@hotmail.com.

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