Thamizh Talkies: The immortal heroines
The writer is a content producer and art curator
When asked to name ONE favourite actress and ONE standout performance on Twitter, the names that came up went as far back as Meena Kumari, even though she was not a Tamil actress but close to the Tamil audience because of the Hindi remakes she did of Tamil super hits. Her appearance and real story is also akin in many ways to our own Savitri, whose name emerged the most number of times from Twitter followers, and not surprisingly so. The revelation, however, is that when we are asked to name a favorite, we get nostalgic, and come up with the best of the best names which represents the extraordinary. I didn’t see the likes of Nayanthara, Samantha, Trisha, Anushka and Amala Paul as much—even though these girls have broken new ground, stood the test of time, led their projects with individual might, and like heroes, have a separate fan base that makes their films commercially viable.
Why then were their names not in the overwhelming majority? Nostalgia is a powerful memory trigger. For Savitri, three films kept overlapping. Missiamma, which she did in the beginning of her career. Maya Bazaar, which she did after her marriage, and Navaratri, which she did towards the peak of her career, which despite being essentially a Sivaji Ganesan vehicle in which he dons nine different roles, has Savitri making an indelible mark with her performance. Today, access to black-and-white movies is limited. So, it was heartening to see her name pop up as many times. After Savitri, the vault lands on Saritha, Revathi and Radhika, the heroines of the 80s. Though Kizhakku Cheemaiyiley is referred to as much, it is to be acknowledged that Radhika’s exemplary career or the gravitas of her presence and performance stands in good stead even today. Ditto for Revathi, whose most effervescent role is Divya in Mouna Raagam. It is rather strange that both these powerhouse performers haven’t been awarded a National Award for Best Actress, though Revathy did win a supporting actress award for Thevar Magan. I have to mention another favourite, Lakshmi. A collage of her shots from Mani Ratnam’s debut film, Pallavi Anupallavi, set to Ilaiyaraaja’s background score is doing the rounds online. Watch it to understand the sheer beauty of her presence!
I wanted to see if names like Simran and Jyothika would emerge, as the 90s were frontlined by them. This piece will be quite long if I were to list out all the best actresses and their performances, but Tabu was another name that featured prominently, and rightfully so. There are actors who perform, but then, there are actors who become the character. Tabu is the latter. Nayanthara is best remembered for Aramm (from the replies I received for my poll) but I would also add to this films like Naanum Rowdy Dhaan, and her latest release, Mookuthi Amman. Samantha has chiselled her career and evolved as an actor so well that one Super Deluxe is enough proof of her talent.
Watch Trisha, in the climax of Ghilli to know how fierce she can get, or in her most famous role ever, Jessy. Amala Paul’s transformation now has turned 360 degrees and she deserves the roles written for her, much like for all these leading ladies. Add Aishwarya Rajesh, Anjali, Varalaxmi Sarathkumar and Aditi Balan to this list, with a hat-tip to Manju Warrier and Parvathy Menon, who shine in any film they do in any language. I have surely left out a few names, yes, but this current list of heroines who have immense talent, awaits great roles and good films to make their mark. Writers, filmmakers and producers… all hear!