Thamizh Talkies: Reign of the queens
The writer is a content producer and art curator
The first quarter of 2022 can be said to belong to three heroines: Deepika Padukone, Alia Bhatt and Madhuri Dixit (in order of appearance). The youngest of them all, Alia, is the one with the dream run with Gangubai Kathiawadi crossing 100-plus crore so far at the box office. This is no mean achievement especially given that the weekend of the film’s release was swamped with more than six other films including Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather which got a re-release to mark its Golden Jubilee year. This is a strange coincidence because the two films have at their centre an anti-hero/heroine, whom society is against accepting as a protagonist due to their character and what they do for a living. The Godfather (Vito Corleone) and Gangubai Kathiawadi run their lives and that of their ilk, on their terms. Alia has blossomed into this actor who can do anything on screen, and she does this so well that filmmakers weave their stories around her. As they would for a hero. This is an enviable position indeed, one which is yet to be attained by an actor in the South. People bought and still are buying tickets for one name: Alia Bhatt.
Deepika redefined the word ‘bold’ with her role in Gehraiyaan, an uncomfortable and disturbing non-linear character replete with complications. This is a role which needed the actor to give her all and Deepika has done it with such aplomb. It made me wonder how such an actor can carry off a film like this in a regional language. Deepika is the top-billed name in this film, the ‘hero’. People clicked to watch this OTT original because of one name: Deepika Padukone.
A recent OTT series that has become most famous is The Fame Game, a series likely already watched by you, me and everyone else we know, within a week of its launch, only because… Madhuri Dixit. Hers is a performance which has made Gen-Z open their eyes to an actor whom they have probably known as a dance show judge in the last decade. As Anamika Anand, Madhuri, the powerhouse performer, takes us back to her iconic performances from the 90s when many a hero’s career was made because of her presence in their films. Madhuri’s grey-shaded role is bold, brave and unapologetically ambitious. She plays a woman who faces many a challenge and rises above the two men in her life as well.
These three heroines have defied age (Alia taking on an older role, while Deepika and Madhuri play younger roles) and chosen to spearhead content off the beaten track. Their names have brought in the audience and made these projects happen. They have pushed their artistic boundaries for their roles and have altered the narrative for what a single or married heroine should or should not do, as per ‘industry/social norms’.
I want to see my South heroines lead such films and series as well. A Radhika Sarathkumar starring in a Mare of Easttown, a Jyotika or Simran doing a Fame Game and of course, the likes of Samantha, Nayanthara, Trisha, Aishwarya Rajesh, Varalaxmi, and others whose talent is yet to see the heights, attaining the levels achieved by Madhuri, Deepika and Alia. It’s time we see our heroines here do roles that go beyond the avenging angel and the hapless victim. It’s time to have our heroines become the heroes whose standing brings in the audience and ensures business. I’m sure the writers and directors will have many a story for them. It’s up to producers, distributors, exhibitors and OTT platforms to back such projects. We have got to make the billing and business of cinema equally available for our heroines.