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The Nayanthara phenomenon

The writer talks about Nayanthara's character, Kokila, in Co Co (Kolamaavu Kokila)

Krupa Ge
Published: 28th August 2018

Is there a triumph sweeter than Nayanthara’s in Kollywood? Her dream run starring in films, front and centre, continues with Kolamavu Kokila. Seeing her name all over the screen in all its glory, how sweet it must feel? That’s how this film begins; with a giant “Nayanthara in”... and then the title rolls on. The other interesting thing about Nayanthara’s roles in films where she’s the biggest star has been the fact that she seems to be drawn to the greys – Naanum Rowdy Thaan, Dora and now this (Aramm is less about Nayanthara, even though she’s at the heart of the film, and more about the politics the film is talking about. But even there her character makes a questionable choice of sending one child down a hole to bring another out). 

Much like Anushka Sharma (who is referred to in the song Kalyana Vayasu), who also is the biggest star in films like Phillauri, NH10, and Pari, Nayanthara too seems to find scripts that cast her a few shades darker. It has an interesting effect. Not only do you get a woman at the helm of a film, but also one who’s flirting with the light and the shadows, one who you’re to root for in spite of knowing that you’re treading into a morally uneven space. Perhaps directors too are able to work more freely with characters that aren’t caricatures or are epitomes of all things great and heroic – or deal with blacks and whites, when they work with a woman at the heart of the film? Perhaps it unshackles them from the commercial compulsions of a cringe-inducing romance sequence that is to be inserted into any and every genre, or deal with the unnecessary song and dance routine that the script may not call for (the recent Karthi-starrer Theeran, for instance, had both of these and could have done without).

Much has already been said about the song Kalyana Vayasu with Yogi Babu’s Sekar stealing some of Nayanthara’s screen thunder away. It’s a real smart way to keep the comedy element, while also subverting the stalker-lover-proposal part of our cinema. Nayanthara’s Kokila has no problem manipulating all of the men around her, even to the extent of making sure an extra guy dies just so she will be safe. This I found refreshing. The film makes light of everything women in our cinema are usually scared of, and not in an offensive way – rape and murder. In fact, this film’s LK (Anbu Thaasan) is more broad-minded than most men you’re likely to see onscreen and off, when he tells Sekar, your love’s karpu is intact even if Kokila may have been violated.

The thing I found mostly missing was an ‘arc’ for Nayanthara or any of the characters in the film. The most you can say for her role in this film is that she goes from employed to self-employed. What if instead of just looking to milk as many laughs as possible whenever Sekar is on screen, the film had allowed us to see just what Kokila thinks of him? In fact, throughout this film she seems inaccessible – behind that veneer of ‘paavam’-face. So much so that you are not able to actually feel bad for her when she’s crying over her mother’s illness.  What if she were a wee bit feistier in a wink-nudge sort of way, so the audience saw what was going on in her head? Instead of just allowing the dialogue to do the work for her, if Kokila had been more of a human that we could access, this film may have been even more powerful. As she stars in more and more roles as the lead, there is always the trappings of ‘image’ that ‘heroes’ face that will haunt Nayanthara too and she will have to look out for those. 

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