After discussing the growth of heroines in ITV via Imlie and Anupama, I had to discuss the other half of the couples, Aryan and Anuj!
ITV is known for its Ridiculously Hot Aggressive Men™ and with that comes a lot of drama for the women who get paired with these leads. Though you can assume that no matter what happens the main couple will end up in love and together by the end of the show.
Plus who doesn’t love sunshine heroine meets grumpy hero? ITV thrives off of this trope, which romance enthusiasts love, but it always includes a lot of misunderstandings even before we get to the vamp/vixen who wants the grumpy hero to herself or awful in-laws who hate the new daughter in law (more on that in the next piece).
What makes Imlie and Anupama unique is their introduction of a second male lead and love interest. Aryan Singh Rathore and Anuj Kapadia’s entry into their shows not only reinvigorated the audience, they reinvigorated the shows themselves. With these two heroes, ITV reveals that healthy relationships where men respect a woman’s choices, support her agency, and women can move on from their first husband are actually possible.
Aryan and Anuj: Two Sides of the Same Coin
As I touched on in the last piece, Aryan was introduced in November, episode 310 to set up the exit of Aditya’s original actor (Gashmeer Mahajani). Reminiscent of many Gul Khan heroes (including Arnav Singh Raizada, the precursor to this ARS), at first Aryan was cranky, overbearing, and only focused on business and his goals (though he loves his family ardently). After meeting Imlie (Sumbul Touqeer Khan), he’s taken by her chaotic energy and begins to mentor her in his brusque way.
When she’s kicked out of her hostel, he rents her a room in the Rathore and continues to support her, pushes her to be the best version of herself, and never lets her fall back on bad habits around her ex in-laws even though she has been socialized to put them first.
He has always focused on her choices and is aware that he has no right to tell her what to do outside of the boss and mentoring relationship. There’s even a brilliant moment where he tells her that there’s a wrong road and a difficult road when making choices, but that choice is hers to make. 100 episodes in and Aryan continues to hold Imlie responsible for her own choices and won’t hold her back.
While Imlie might not have appreciated that support for what it was at the beginning, the audience sure did. Like the time Aryan told Aditya to kneel in front of Imlie because she owns the Tripathi’s house now. (This is just one example of why fandom loves Aryan so much, he’s a bad guy in the best way.)
Elsewhere, Anuj Kapadia was introduced in September in episode 357, following the plot of Sreemoyee where Anuj and Anu (Rupali Ganguly) meet each other for the first time in 26 years at their college reunion. (We actually just passed six months with him!)
Both Aryan and Anuj are billionaires with hearts of gold who respect their families, loved ones, and people in a general sense. However, neither have time for fools and won’t hesitate to call negative characters out. Snarky commentary? Very much yes.
They admire the women in their lives and support them but also point out how both Imlie and Anu can grow. Anuj because he’s loved Anu for 26 years and wants to see her prosper, and Aryan because Imlie slowly gets under his skin and he sees the potential in her to do more with her life.
While Anuj’s entry was always a given, Aryan is completely new to the show and it shows how talented Fahmaan Khan is as an actor that Aryan is so compelling. Most shows that either kill the first ML or bring on someone new crash and burn because audiences just do not want to accept a new love interest. Here, the TRP has continued to stay stable with a few tenths movement up or down keeping it in the top five shows for Hindi.
More importantly, Khan not only kept much of the current audiences’ attention, he brought in a lot of new viewers (like me) and has kept us glued to the screen where the original show never interested us at all! Both Khan and Khan have a crackling chemistry making all their interactions even before the romantic aspects started really captivating. Khan is also fully aware of his role in the show and the space that he had to make his own.
Complicating matters for Arylie was that to bring him on the show, he had to be connected to the others. Here he blames Aditya for his brother in law Arvind’s death. Since Aryan’s father had passed away prior to Arvind and Arpita’s marriage, Arvind was as Narmada (Aryan and Arpita’s mother) points out, Aryan’s sky and ground, and in losing him (and seeing his sister and mother’s grief), Aryan lost himself. He’s spent the past four years running all their companies, and is now the CEO of Bhaskar times where Aditya works (and now Imlie) work.
Like Aryan, Anuj also has major trauma from losing his parents in a car accident that he blames himself for and because his sister has been roaming the world for ten odd years after surviving domestic violence at the hands of her husband, the husband that Anuj set her up with after chasing away the man that she loved. (Oof.)
The immense guilt from that in any other show would have made Anuj a shell of his former self. But for moments of very understandable anger, Anuj is honestly more of a sunshine hero himself! While he doesn’t have any drawn out revenge plans, he’s also incredibly protective of Anu and, if possible, would have probably taken Vanraj out himself (a girl can dream).
Khanna was the perfect casting for Anuj. Four years younger than Ganguly, he looks the right age to be her classmate but still carries a bit of youthfulness. Even though Anuj has faced a lot of awful in his life, he, unlike Aryan, hasn’t closed himself to his feelings. Khanna has also acted on over 17 shows and the respect between him and Ganguly comes through in all their scenes.
Without that respect and chemistry, the MaAn relationship would not have garnered as much love and attention as it has from the audience, keeping the show at number one since his entry (after an already long run as the number one show)!
Agency, Choice, and Support
Aryan and Anuj’s unwavering but realistic support for Imlie and Anu obviously makes them wonderful exceptions to the norm of ITV heroes and husbands who take forever to actually like their wives because their weddings are almost always due to ridiculous circumstances.
Both are also independent of the women in their lives and have lives of their own (even if that’s sometimes forgotten by the writers). Their dedication to their goals and single-minded focus on getting what they want without hurting others (who don’t deserve it) is, as always, an impressive quality in characters that in other shows would become fools in love.
Unlike other serials, Aryan and Anuj are also incredibly cognizant of their roles in their (will be) partners’ lives. Aryan keeps his distance from Imlie because he’s her boss and the writers have even taken care to make him younger than Fahmaan Khan and in response to Aditya being 35 (yuck).
“We’re not friends, Imlie” has come out of his mouth more times than almost anything else except for this 1, 2, 3 udhar rahi statements. While most of that is a defense mechanism, he’s very aware of the power differential between them, which is incredibly refreshing for ITV.
At the same time, he’s quick to help Imlie and take care of her, especially as they’ve spent more time together.
(L: Imlie doesn’t allow Adi to touch her. R: Imlie sits while Aryan cleans the mud off of her.)
Anuj too takes great pains to show Anu that even though he loves her, he will never pressure her and supports her with no expectations of her feelings changing for him (though they obviously do). He keeps his distance within the healthy bounds of friendship but also mentors and supports her professionally in her goals now that she’s divorced and living on her own. It’s only as they become closer that he feels comfortable to, for example, grab her pallu (which she allows!) as their relationship strengthens.
Anupama‘s production team smartly added GK, Anuj’s father figure, into the story as he, like Narmada, functions as a guiding figure for their sons. Anuj even calls GK mummy (wholesome) and respects him as he would his parents (who actually adopted him).
Since both men have loving parental figures, both their heroines are loved too. However, Narmada and GK love Imlie and Anu independently of their relationships to their sons, another rarity in ITV.
As for being billionaires, unlike many heroes both in serials and romance novels who throw their money around like it means nothing or are stuck up about it, the Rathores treat their family staff very respectfully and the same goes for Anuj at home and at work.
In fact, in a subversion of using money to solve the heroine’s problem, when Aryan buys the Tripathi house (they were going to lose it to a loan shark), he puts it in Imlie’s name for five years, so she can’t just give it back, as he’s aware of her tendency for selflessness that only harms her.
Elsewhere, Anuj gives Anu a loan to start her business, but has it come directly from the company itself so she doesn’t feel beholden to him. He also picks her idea for his new business venture because it is actually good, and not just because he would love to work with her.
Of course, Anuj has existed longer than Aryan and was always meant to be with Anupama, so their relationship has developed quickly towards mutual love and respect. While Aryan has begun to fall for Imlie, she still only sees him as a friend, boss, and mentor. Though that’s going to change with the new twist of their upcoming marriage. (This was written before episode 411 of Imlie so if the writers mess up his character, I’m fighting.)
Even so, while the shows are from different production teams, Anuj and Aryan are foils to one another, revealing how the billionaires with hearts of gold trope can succeed and how male heroes can be grumpy yet genuinely good people, placing Aryan and Anuj at the top of the ITV heroes list.
Images courtesy of Star Plus
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