The Manmarziyaan of India’s Many Small-Town Rumis

Bollywood

The Manmarziyaan of India’s Many Small-Town Rumis

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

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nurag Kashyap’s Manmarziyaan begins with a red-haired Rumi (Taapsee Pannu) emerging from her room in the early morning light of Amritsar in a tight Patiala salwar-kameez. In that moment, she feels like the Everywoman of a small town – the one to whom no agency is afforded by her surroundings and yet who walks away with it, like a cat between her teeth. When a peacock-haired wastrel jumps over the roof and Rumi wraps herself around him with a practiced familiarity, do our assumptions get confirmed. Rumi is that woman discussed in hushed whispers in every small town.

As I watched Rumi spit an expletive at her unsuspecting family in the film, I was reminded of a potty-mouthed friend from Allahabad. Everyone, even our parents, avoided speaking to the Rumi from my hometown, fearing she’d drop the M-bomb. Rumi’s red hair was a short story unto itself. I still remember the first girl to get highlights in the neighbourhood and how we branded her “proudy” and “tez”. These Rumis occupied our folklore as valkyries, upstaging the status quo with their bold indifference.

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