Viewfinder: Why Trisha matters
The writer traces the career of Trisha as she completes fifteen years in the industry
On one day in the early 2000s, I was watching cable television when this cherubic model — who I didn’t know to be Trisha Krishnan back then — in some advertisement caught my attention. Something about her looks, her body language suggested to me that she’d do really well in films. Trisha’s now completed 15 years, and her longevity also means that my oldest friends don’t hear the end of how I have a terrific eye for spotting talent. And when Mounam Pesiyathe got released, guess who was excitedly telling friends that this girl, the debutante, had already played a cameo in Jodi before? Those scenes, incidentally, have now gone viral on YouTube — much like some of Vijay Sethupathi’s cameos in films like Pudhupettai and Naan Mahaan Alla, after his rise to superstardom. There’s great interest in these videos, in seeing what these stars once used to look like, what roles they had once settled for… to know that they too had once looked and lived like us.
And in films like Mounam Pesiyathe and Lesa Lesa, Trisha did look like one of us. She was pretty even then, sure, but the hair wasn’t so perfect, the presence not as radiant. She was called Dhanalakshmi in Ghilli, and you didn’t even think it was an odd name for someone like her. Back then, if somebody had told you that she would go on to feature in, say, that opening number (Poraada Poraada) in Aranmanai 2, you’d have shrieked in disbelief. She was, for many of us whose lives were intricately linked to Tamil cinema of the 2000s (and the 90s and 80s, but that’s another story altogether), that innocent, cheerful girl… that romantic distraction in star vehicles — in short, the perfect heroine for Tamil masala cinema. Thirupachi, Kireedam, Bheema, Kuruvi… she was the heroine around whom heroes completed their transformation into stars. Sure, she wasn’t the only one, but she’s the one who’s completed 15 years and still remained relevant as a heroine. Even that legendary heroine of the 90s — Khushboo — didn’t feature as long as a heroine. Trisha’s, in terms of longevity at least, is an achievement.
She may not really have revolutionised her job in Tamil cinema — that credit goes to someone else — or created stunning prototypes that future heroines will be eager to emulate, but it doesn’t take away from her feat of having managed to survive as a heroine for 15 long years. It’s crucial, for, it tells heroines that their time in the limelight needn’t be thought of as transient, as has traditionally been the case. It tells them that they don’t have to settle for horrible roles, as glamourised sidekicks, in an eagerness to cash in while there’s still interest. It tells them that you can stay long enough, and if you are so inclined, you can challenge yourself, and perhaps even make a difference.
Trisha, for instance, was able to do Nayagi last year — a film mounted on her stardom. Sure, it was nothing to write home about, but it’s clearly an example of an actor trying out something new. Last year also saw her play an impressive character in Kodi. The craftiness, the manipulative nature of her character in the film is poles apart from the doe-eyed actor in the early 90s.
But my most favourite character of hers is — and barring a huge surprise, will always be — Jessie from Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya, who’s also among my most favourite female characters of the last decade. The urban girl who isn’t sure of what she wants. Some complained that the character was too fickle, too inconsistent without seeing that it was this fickleness, this inconsistency that was her definitive trait, that made her so real. Jessie frustrates, infuriates, and yet, always radiates a quiet determination, and given that seven years have passed since the film’s release, can be said to be an example of enduring elegance. Trisha’s career isn’t all too different. Some of her roles have frustrated, angered, but she continues to remain relevant, and her appeal has endured. It’d be fascinating to see what she does in the next leg of her career; I sincerely hope it’s one full of surprises.