Ms. Representation: The Oviya phenomenon
This weekly column is a rumination on how women are portrayed in cinema and this week we take a look at Oviya and Bigg Boss Tamil
This last week has seen the resurgence of #OviyaArmy in full force as the actress graced the Bigg Boss Season finale. The fans of the actress and wildly popular Bigg Boss Tamil contestant, have been waiting patiently, ever since her terribly upsetting exit from the show, for their new found hero to claim her rightful space in the limelight so they can shower her with adoration.
For her part, Oviya has been immensely original and respectful of her fans, while being typically assertive. Like that phrase she made popular, the one that catapulted her to fame, 'Neenga Shut Up Pannunga', Oviya too knows where lines are drawn. She is firm but polite. She stands up for herself, wears her heart on her sleeve and seemed to be falling off the rails briefly. It was not easy to watch her towards the end of her stint in Bigg Boss; even fans will attest to this. Her self-awareness came in handy and she exited, albeit only after trying to hold her breath in a pool in the Bigg Boss house. It was a cruel move on the part of the television channel to actually show her, as she was so very obviously not in a sound space during those last days.
Once out, Oviya didn't jump up to lap up all the limelight and milk it. She took time off, mingled with fans, took photos with them, got a cool haircut and then she made a comeback. She released a video where she spoke directly to fans, addressing their concerns, telling them about her life, etc. She then told them to watch her movies only if they liked it and to totally feel free to critique her if the movie was bad. At a time when fan armies of trolls on the internet rise up in arms to condemn anyone critical of their hero, here was a newly super famous woman who was yet to sign new movies telling her fans to treat her as an artiste, first. Here's something else other ‘mass’ heroes don't do that Oviya did that day. She took on trolls who were harassing other participants head on. She told them to not 'corner’ others because she knows how that felt and then said, she did not need fans who were making others’ lives miserable by abusing them. This, from a woman who had received adoration to the level of having her own 'army' of fans, who put up flex banners and released songs in her honour, was thoroughly interesting and amazing to watch.
Meanwhile a movie was rechristened as Oviyava vitta Yaaru. Movies in which she was considered second lead before her stint in Bigg Boss were quickly recast by makers as 'extended cameo'. There are reports that she has signed on three movies and has been turning down offers as well.
I cannot wait to see what Oviya, who was earlier seen in films like Kalavaani and Kalakappu, brings to Tamil screens now. What I am really hopeful for is a role that captures the spirit Oviya embodies for young Tamil audiences. A carefree woman who does and speaks as she wishes. Oviya is the antithesis of what Tamil cinema women are on screen and audiences love her. Fans are calling her ‘mass’ and 'thalaivi', and unwittingly, Oviya is rewriting what 'mass' means in Tamil cinema. Hope this shows our filmmakers that the audience is ready, has always been ready for real women. Women who laugh, cry, fight, stand up for themselves, fall in love, have their heart broken, heal, rise up to the occasion and deserve to be ‘mass'.