Thamizh Talkies: Let the queens rule
The writer is a producer and art curator
Two heroines have delivered blockbusters and moved on to work on their next films in Hindi cinema. Two women who took on mainstream roles without much fuss and are consistent in their performances of any role they take up—be it the protagonist or ‘supporting the hero’ role. One heroine’s film opened at Rs. 10 crores at the box office, which is an achievement in itself, considering the film didn’t have Kapoor/Singh/Kumar as the hero and the other heroine’s film finished at an all-time high at the box office and the remake is already on its way in other languages. The two women belong to two different generations and the older woman’s success in today’s parlance is obviously more of a celebration. Alia Bhatt and Tabu have broken every record there is with their powerhouse talent. Gangubhai Kathiawadi and Bhool Bhulaiyya 2 are the two super-hits (now go back to Tabu’s films in the last 5-7 years and see her string of hits which includes her splendid grey roles in Andhadhun and Drishyam).
A blockbuster movie defines the career of any actor, and it’s from there that their trajectory starts going upward. For a heroine, such films are a rarity, given the probability of a ‘heroine-centric’ film getting made. Tabu looks gorgeous (and has continued to look so right through the years) and her ability to get under the skin of the role makes one wish for such performances and films (Haider, for example) in the South for our girls. Even in the Ranveer Singh-led film, Gully Boy, Alia Bhatt’s Safeena made each scene stand out. When one watches Alia, one is watching the character, not the superstar she is.
Nayanthara and Samantha in the South are yet to dole out films in which they are normal everyday characters (wait before you come listing out their films!) who are not avenging some wrong done to them or tackling a social issue in a superhuman way. An actor is as good as the role or film they get. Samantha, of course, has a bit more of an advantage in how she’s poised currently in her career, even as she’s doing films in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu and taking on romantic leads as well as playing the comedy card (a delightful one in Oh Baby) and being an avenging angel (Family Man). I’d love to see Nayanthara or Trisha in a variety of stories that don’t slot them into becoming heroes for the sake of being one. This is why Trisha’s Janaki in 96 is as important as Jessy in Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya.
Comedy has long been the forte of senior heroines—like Raadika, Urvashi, Rohini, Revathy and Saranya, and the best of them all, Lakshmi. But watch Nayanthara in Dora (her initial hit along with the horror superhit, Maya) and you will see that she can make you laugh too! But in most films where she’s playing the traditional heroine to the superhero, the focus of her character is one-dimensional (even in the emotional Viswasam, the father was proven to be always correct while the mother is portrayed as this rich, arrogant woman who misunderstands him).
Aishwarya Rajesh (who has good timing in her retorts even when she’s simply having an offline chat) is another good candidate for a comedy. A look at Shruti Haasan’s Instagram stories and her avatar, ‘Annoying Aunty’ (where she ad-libs like a true-blue standup comic) and her performance as the bumbling lawyer in Vedalam, will make you wonder why no filmmaker has approached her with comedy. It’s a flair for the absurd along with the sharpness to catch the well-intended pun that makes comedy work. Web series and OTT originals do have a space where our girls can take on a variety of roles but the ruling divas should also get to rule the box office with films in which they are the hero for the right reasons.