Tanu and Manu: the untold love story
Are Indian women only looking for sturdy slugs like Manu who need to be course corrected by us?
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I’m sure Tanu fantasizes about other men when she’s having sex with Manu, who probably gets off just from the relief of lying back and not doing the hard work. It’s clearly that kind of a relationship. Hell we all married the strong, silent type, but this guy is a tuber wrapped up in a wet blanket. When she leaves him, her relief is palpable. Her curly hair, tied in a bun, comes undone. The film-maker probably meant it to symbolize her return to her wild former self but as a fellow curly-haired person, I can guarantee it was as much about the respite of not being around Manu. Away from him, Tanu immediately starts to feel sexier.
I’ve held back from writing this column since that first day, first show, but I reckon if you were planning to see the film you would have done so by now. Anyway, SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t watched the non-romance that is two films old.
Almost as soon as Tanu leaves Manu, she looks ready to embrace whoever life throws her way next, even if it is just Chintu, a rowdy squatter law student who’s refusing to vacate the room her parents rented to him.
She knows exactly how much havoc she’s going to wreak in Chintu’s head as she shows him her superhero side. But she also knows she needs him to recover. He’s energetic, he has the potential to bring her back to life. And he understands her. When at one point she tells him to back off with the classic, “hey, I’m married”, his comeback is quick. “That’s just your marital status,” he says. “In your heart you’re still single.” How did he know?
The first thing she does, like any woman who’s just been granted sudden, early release from a life sentence, is to re-establish contact with the ex who always knew which buttons to press. The man who would likely fight her to be on top. It doesn’t help that while Manu has become even more lethargic than he was in the first film, Raja, the ex, has added a couple of layers of pragmatism and humour to his hotness. Of course, he hasn’t forgotten her. Of course, he still wants her.
I’m sure that even though Tanu is back with Manu, the exes have linked up on Snapchat and are sending each other hot pictures and raunchy thoughts. If you’re from the sexting generation (buck up, dear married Mint Lounge reader), Snapchat allows you to send text, photo and video messages that disappear 1-10 seconds after your special friend gets them. There’s no question of slow-mo Manu ever catching them.
Tanu is definitely indulging in some emotional infidelity now that she’s back with the bore. What are some signs of this much-contested type of infidelity? Let’s presume Tanu is playing mental mud wrestling with Raja. She’s definitely fantasizing about him; she thinks he understands her better than Manu does; she can’t get enough of him on Snapchat; yesterday, without intending to, she revealed that she can’t get any satisfaction with Manu. She finds Raja funnier; she feels alive again.
Incidentally, you should drop that innocent look. Married people routinely indulge in emotional infidelity, research has shown. One recent study found that while men are more disturbed by the sexual infidelity of their partners, women think emotional infidelity is more distressing.
Cheating in the digital age isn’t just about having intercourse with more than one person. It’s about the fantasy of accessing potential perfect sexual partners (in some cases, the ones that got away, i.e. exes, all readily available on Facebook) on demand if the need should ever arise. Until then, you can make do with the thrill of unlimited foreplay (at least for women, this is often adequate) and the joys of infidelity, with dramatically reduced chances of getting caught if you choose the right technology. Lag Jaa Gale, that 1960s hit, can easily be repurposed as a love song of a couple who finally meet after a torrid virtual affair. Jee bhar ke dekh lijiye hum ko kareeb se/phir aap ke naseeb mein ye baat ho na ho. Drink in this image of me from up close until you are satisfied; in this lifetime, we may or may not meet again.
Two cheers to people who cheated when the only way to coordinate their illicit rendezvous (which consisted of actual and not virtual sex) was the landline and carrier pigeons.
Why Tanu ever goes back to Manu will always remain a mystery to me. It’s quite clear that Manu is just going to turn into his sexist father whose marital motto is “Jab tak jhel sako jhel lo (Put up with it as long as you can).” See how many years I’ve put up with my shrew of a wife, son. All with the help of some whisky. That wisdom is supposed to inspire his son to try to hold it together.
If my WhatsApp groups are any indication, Indian men love to share clichéd marriage jokes. As I typed this sentence, my phone pinged. I kid you not. It was my married friend from Shillong. “Married life is so easy, it’s just like a walk in the park. But the problem is that the park is...Jurassic Park.”
We are still too polite to point out to our joke-forwarding, T-Rex seeing husbands that turning into one’s father is easily scarier than turning into one’s mother. Women invest so much effort thinking about this particular issue; men don’t even see it coming. Besides, in my opinion, women stay much more engaged, and in tune with the world around them than their male partners as they grow older.
As for the whole Tanu lookalike falling for Manu? Are Indian women really only looking for sturdy slugs who need to be course corrected by us? If the girl hadn’t put her hands up, the climax would have been classic Manu: lie back and do nothing.
In an imaginary, perfect world, Tanu would have dumped Manu, had an actual affair with Raja, and then taken off for Paris to find herself. And that movie would have been called Queen.
Priya Ramani will share what’s making her feel angsty/agreeable every fortnight.
Read Priya’s previous Lounge columns here