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10 Years Of Student Of The Year: Why Were We Made To Hate Tanya And Love Shanaya?

If we go on to analyse the characters of Tanya and Shanaya together in the last few scenes of the film, something that becomes clear is that Shanaya’s identity remains linked to the men in her life while Tanya’s doesn’t.

It’s been ten years since KJo gave us Bollywood’s version of Serena van der Woodsen (Blake Lively) – Shanaya Singhania (Alia Bhatt).

Ten years since Shanaya’s pink and silver lehenga look from Radha became a sensation among young Indian girls.

Ten years since a twelve-year-old version of me drooled over Shanaya with butterflies in her stomach as she sang Gulabi Aankhen while introducing herself in the film.

In case it isn’t obvious already, Student of the Year (2012) shaped my personality throughout my teenage years and continues to do so even now. However, as the film turns a decade old, I feel the need to admit that a character who impacted my identity as much as Shanaya, if not more, was Tanya Israni (Sana Saeed).

Who was Tanya really, the girl we were expected to hate?

But, who is Tanya in the film? How are we, the Indian audiences, introduced to her? What are we made to think of her? And how do we view her with respect to Shanaya’s character?

If I were to answer that the first time I watched the film, I would certainly think of her as a desi and less significant version of Regina George (Rachel McAdams) whose only purpose in the film was to highlight the positive attributes of Shanaya’s personality.

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But, over time, I have come to the realisation that Tanya is much more than a mere boyfriend snatcher or an insecure mean girl. She is, instead, someone I aspire to be – an independent woman whose introduction starts with her sitting in a boardroom meeting, who walks into her school reunion with a Dior bag on her arm, and who proudly claims that she does not have any regrets from her school life.

As a high school student, Tanya knows what she wants – whether it is her wanting to become the head cheerleader of her school or her wanting to qualify an IQ test by hook or by crook. These were a few traits that even I constantly tried to inculcate in my own personality during my high school and college days. Today, I know for certain that everything significant that I was able to achieve during those years of my life was a result of me knowing that I was a Tanya instead of a Shanaya, at least in spirit.

Of course, a lot of people would argue that Tanya used her ‘Pretty Privilege’ to enter a competition and that she was a stereotypical ‘bimbo’ who couldn’t crack a single clue in a treasure hunt scene in the film. But, whatever be the case, she did end up competing with the most brilliant characters in the film without losing hope or giving up. That, in every way, shows her survival spirit.

The ‘other woman’ is not always the villain: what about the man?

While Student of the Year, as a film, brought out the grey shades of all the characters in it, Tanya was someone who was, quite unfortunately, painted as a negative character instead of a neutral one.

Shanaya, after her introduction in the film, deliberately spills a glass of red wine on Tanya’s top after she catches her boyfriend, Rohan (Varun Dhawan) flirting with the latter. Furthermore, throughout the first half of the film, the two women continuously fight over Rohan with Shanaya winning momentarily. But, then why is it Tanya instead of Rohan who had been demonised in the film for following her heart and going after the man she fancies? At the end of the day, it is still Rohan who cheats his partner.

Perhaps, after all these years, it is finally time for us, as an audience, to realise that ‘the other woman’ can not be viewed as a villain.

The ‘good girl’ is one who links her identity to men, right?

If we go on to analyse the characters of Tanya and Shanaya together in the last few scenes of the film, something that becomes clear is that Shanaya’s identity remains linked to the men in her life while Tanya’s doesn’t.

Shanaya goes from being Rohan’s girlfriend to becoming Abhimanyu’s (Sidharth Malhotra) wife, but Tanya continues to be known for who she truly is, even if her personality traits are far from being acceptable to the Indian audiences.

Is that not a sign of empowerment? In my opinion, it definitely is.

The twenty-two year old me is glad to have been able to embrace the Tanya during her teenage years. Maybe now it is time for us to see that characters like Tanya deserve the same respect as characters like Shanaya. Mean girls, pretty girls, bimbos, and the other women can all be as admirable as manic pixie dream girls and girls next door.

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About the Author

Upasana Dandona

A dysgraphic writer who spends most of their time watching (and thinking about) Bollywood films. read more...

37 Posts | 155,333 Views

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