CE Year in Review 2022: The many real and liberated women of Tamil Cinema
From Sai Pallavi in Gargi to Natchathiram Nagargirathu's Rene, a look at women on screen who stood as the symbols of hope and resilience
Cinema is a cathartic art form. Stories and characters that deal with a relatable concern or transport us from reality aid in the purging of our emotions. Fascinatingly, 2022 is a year that witnessed the earnest reflection of real-life women in Tamil cinema, which was more than just cathartic, perhaps even liberating.
These women not only reinforced the fight against gender-based violence but also broke out of template roles, played substantial roles, represented intersectionality in various social strata, and upheld radical ideas. On that note, here's a look at memorable characters and compelling performers.
Keerthy Suresh in Saani Kaayidham
The crime drama unleashed Keerthy's untapped potential as she got into the shoes of the vengeful and ruthless Ponni. The story underlines how Ponni, a survivor of sexual assault, embarks on an unforgiving journey to retaliate against those who disrupted her life and family. Although Ponni's half-brother Sangaiah is on her side, the story does not adopt the male saviour trope. The self-reliant Ponni knows her battle and fights it out. It is definitely taxing to play such an indignant and unsettling character like Ponni, but Keerthy nails it with her gripping rendition.
Sai Pallavi in Gargi
Sai Pallavi in and as Gargi regurgitates the power and reassurance of sisterhood that holds and lifts the she-tribe. The film follows a schoolteacher, Gargi, in her fight to prove that her father, accused in a POCSO case, is innocent. However, when she faces a hard-hitting truth, she stands up for what is right. In a very complex role, Sai Pallavi once again proves to be a consummate actor with her convincing portrayal of a vulnerable yet determined young woman.
Andrea Jeremiah in Anel Mele Pani Thuli
Anel Mele Pani Thuli is another example of how Tamil cinema is progressing in terms of telling sincere stories about women's resilience and their struggle for justice. Andrea plays Mathi, a young woman on a relentless struggle to bring to justice the culprits who sexually assaulted her. Through her journey, the film highlights a woman's will to fight the red-tapism in the legal system and busts the notion of honour attached to their body. Andrea not only does a good job in portraying a determined and straightforward Mathi, but also comes off as a very aware actor who knows when and where to show off her caliber and when to let the storytelling take the driver's seat.
Urvashi in Veetla Vishesham
For Urvashi, Veetla Vishesham is yet another film that cements her legacy as an actor nonpareil. As Krishnaveni, a middle-aged homemaker, who deals with an unexpected pregnancy, Urvashi might not have a lot of dialogue, but she outshines everyone with a remarkable portrayal of innocence and maternal feeling. It is also empowering to see how despite the lack of exposure to the outer world, Krishnaveni knows to decide for herself, and take ownership of her body and reproductive rights. Krishnaveni is the epitome of grace as she embraces her vulnerability and overcomes the stigma and criticisms.
Simran in Rocketry: The Nambi Effect
As Meena, the wife of the scientist in Nambi Narayanan's biopic, Rocketry: The Nambi Effect, Simran once again proves why she is one of the most compelling actors of this generation. Even with limited screen time, Simran captivates the audience with her sonorous performance as an endearing, yet frail wife with gargantuan amounts of resolve. The chills from her croaky cries in a particularly poignant scene will not be forgotten any time soon.
Rohini in Witness
Rohini has flushed out life and soul into Indrani in Witness, a conservancy worker and a mother fighting an impossible battle to seek justice for her son, who died after being forced to clean sewage. The resolute Indrani also mirrors the scores of underprivileged women as she takes on an everyday fight against systematic hierarchy. In moments of grief, meltdown and rage Rohini's performance hits all the right chords and makes us shed tears, and our inhibitions about bringing to the fore such conversations.
Aishwarya Rai in Ponniyin Selvan
The ethereal Aishwarya Rai, who returned to Tamil cinema with Ponniyin Selvan, as Nandhini, defied all kinds of stereotypes to mask a fiery sense of vengeance underneath the throes of beauty. The actor's prowess is reflected in the subtle portrayal of a deceitful woman who carries the wrath of being an outsider with a traumatic past and her desperate desire to conquer the throne. Her compelling presence and spellbinding performance not just enhanced the character but elevated the epic saga too.
Nadiya Moidu in Putham Pudhu Kaalai Vidiyaadha
After almost a decade, Nadiya Moidu returned to Tamil films with the segment Mounamey Paarvayaai in the Putham Pudhu Kaalai Vidiyaadha anthology, streaming on Prime Video. Nadiya plays Yashoda, a middle-aged wife and flautist. Yashoda and her husband (Joju George) aren't in speaking terms for years despite living under the same roof. In this silent film, Nadiya steals the show with her effective performance. Her talent was especially showcased in the scenes where her resonant expressions added more nuance and layers to the story of a couple finding forgotten love during the time of Covid-19.
Aishwarya Lekshmi in Gatta Kusthi
It has been a stellar year for the actor as she dished out two memorable performances in Tamil--a charming Poonguzhali in Ponniyin Selvan and a gutsy Keerthi in Gatta Kusthi. While she had limited screen space in the former, the latter turned out to be the much-needed canvas for Aishwarya to give that explosive performance. As Keerthi, a wrestler, Aishwarya adroitly nails the fight sequences, mass transformation scenes, and of course, the comedy. Her tenacious journey of standing her ground in a toxic marriage and deciding to pursue her passion is reassuring.
Dushara Vijayan in Natchathiram Nagargiradhu
Natchathiram Nagargiradhu's Rene is one-of-a-kind. Perhaps, one of the most fascinating characterisations in this year's films. Rene, who upholds radical values, is of course not seen as the ideal type. She is flawed and vulnerable at times. Yet, with her head held high, she is unafraid and unapologetic about her social identity. Her character, enhanced by her solid and persuasive performance, reaffirms the fundamental tenet of love; to love is to feel liberated.