Last week I gave in my wish list for the kind of women I want to see on screen in 2018. Before I take the leap to enjoy all the things 2018 has to offer, here’s my list of women who made watching cinema a superb experience in 2017.
At first, I wanted to do a ‘top 5 moments in cinema from the last year’ for this column, but an embarrassment of riches has made me focus on the women who are enriching the landscape of our cinema instead.
In terms of performances, my picks go to comeback women, Shanti Krishna (as Sheela Chacko) and Bhanupriya (as Rani), for their terrific roles in Njandukalude Nattil Oridavela and Magalir Mattum. Nimisha Sajayan as Sreeja in Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum was utterly delightful. Sai Pallavi in the Telugu film, Fidaa, was so natural that she set the bar very high for actresses in terms of dubbing for themselves. And, of course there was Vidya Balan in Tumhari Sulu who made it seem like she was just breezing through the entire film effortlessly. And finally, Aditi Balan in Aruvi, who after a long time made me want to go to the cinemas twice to watch the same film.
As news-makers and head-turners, many women made us beam this year. Nayanthara and Jyotika, for instance, are on an exciting road currently in Tamil cinema and one really looks forward to what 2018 might bring for them. While the former starred in films like Dora and Aramm, as the biggest name, and earned for herself the ‘Lady Superstar’ moniker with no trace of irony or smugness, much the same way adoration and titles are showered on men in Tamil cinema, the latter made waves with Magalir Mattum, even as her character in the film wore her feminism and ideology on her sleeve for a change. Jyotika also made men collectively lose their s**t as she swore in the trailer for Bala’s Naachiyar. How easy is it to rattle men?
Speaking of easily rattling men, Lakshmi Priyaa Chandramouli handled the controversy around her short film Lakshmi, ‘like a boss’. Not only did she take all of the bouquets and brickbats in her stride, she also constantly stood up for her role, while also not taking herself too seriously (she did a video reading out and responding to comments about her short film on YouTube). Varalaxmi Sarathkumar walked the corridors of power trying to convince the men of our political world to set up special courts to deal with sexual crimes against women and spoke up about her own experience with sexual harassment in the industry.
The Women in Cinema Collective from the Malayalam industry set up to address gender issues within their field was a sparkling example of accomplished women coming together to claim their space and set right what is wrong. Actor Parvathy has been most vocal in calling out misogyny in Malayalam cinema and has acted in ways admirable – she has spoken against a misogynistic movie (Kasaba starring Mammootty), written about not kowtowing to the rape threats she has been receiving in response to her calling out and has taken action by reporting to police the abusive handles that have trolled her and issued threats relentlessly.
One half of the successful duo Gayathri-Pushkar is female and she deserves all of the praise for making it this big and for making the wonderful Vikram Vedha in 2018, and we would love to see more women follow Gayathri’s success and be ‘trusted’ with big budgets to make big movies that will in turn bring more women and their gaze on to our screens.
Women got a lot done this last year in cinema, but still have a long road ahead with their work cut out... I wish them all well and will be right here, cheering them on.
(The writer is a city-based journalist and editor)
This weekly column is a rumination on how women are portrayed in cinema