Aishwarya Rajesh (Kakka Muttai, 2015), Anjali (Iravi), Nayanthara (Maya (2015) and Naanum Rowdy Dhaan (2015)), Trisha (Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya, 2010), Parvathy (Mariyaan, 2013), Richa (Mayakkam Enna, 2011), Jyothika (36 Vayathiniley, 2015), Ritika (Irudhi Suttru), Varalaxmi (Poda Podi, 2012), and Radhika Apte (Kabali). An online survey to ‘Name Best Performances from 2010 — Female’ revealed the above list (in no particular order).
One heroine who makes a difference to the box-office is Nayanthara. She recently signed Imaikkaa Nodigal with Atharva Murali and that gave this otherwise small film a much-needed fillip. Her film choices in the last three years make for an interesting time at the movies. Along with her, there are consistent performers like Anjali (someone cast her in more films please!), Aishwarya Rajesh (Kuttramey Thandanai, Dharmadurai released to good praise but she needs to do solo heroine roles with other heroes too) and Varalaxmi (needs better roles to show her natural talent). A good actor who can give a good performance is the result of a role well written and well directed. So why is it such a one-off thing?
Trisha was made to play to her strengths by Gautham Menon in VTV. In Mani Ratnam’s Ayutha Ezhuthu (2004) she brought a reflection of what later would become Nitya Menon’s lead in OK Kanmani (2015) — the unabashed contemporariness in love. Jyothika, Parvathy, and Radhika Apte bring immediate credibility to their roles but they do selective films only.
In the early 80s, ‘women emancipation’ movies belonged to K Balachander or Visu, where the heroine suffered a lot and then finally breaks away from the norm. Bharathiraja’s heroines were a welcome change — Radha in Mudhal Mariyathai (1985) lost the National Award that year to Suhasini for Sindhu Bhairavi (1985) as her voice was dubbed by Radhika (whose memorable performances are many to list).
Mani Ratnam began his career with an older woman-younger boy love story (Pallavi Anupallavi (1983) with the-fabulous-in-any-role Lakshmi and Anil Kapoor). Not just his heroines, the other women characters also have a say in how the story progresses — Tara, Sumitra and Jayachitra in Agni Nakshatram (1988), Swarnamalya and Jayasudha in Alaipayuthey (2000), Leela Samson in OK Kanmani). His women are practical with strong convictions and go through their confusions unapologetically (Mouna Raagam’s Revathy (1986), Nayakan’s Saranya (1987), Thalapathy’s Shobhana (1991), Amala in Agni Nakshatram, Tabu in Iruvar (1997), Manisha Koirala in Bombay (1995), Aishwarya Rai in Iruvar, Guru (2007) and Madhubala in Roja (1992)).
Cut to 2003, Maya proposes to Anbuchelvan (Kakkha Kakkha (2003)) and even says she would like to make love to him! Muthazagu would kill for her love in Paruthiveeran (2007). Engeyum Eppothum (2011) saw a dominating girlfriend versus a timid one and both women had a purpose. Pudhupettai (2006), Goa (2010), Parthiban Kanavu (2003) saw Sneha shine!
It’s interesting to note that in Hindi, married heroines perform romantic leads too (Kajol and Kareena). Raavanan (2010) had a post marriage Aishwarya Rai Bachchan romance Prithviraj and simmer with Vikram, but she’s not a ‘Tamil’ heroine! Would any writer/director/producer cast Simran (who performed to perfection in Vaaranam Aayiram (2008) post marriage) in a sizzling, romantic role like Aishwarya Rai’s in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil?
(To be continued next week...)