Since its release on Friday last, Nayanthara starrer Aramm has been the talk of tinsel town. Ha, it feels good to say the lady superstar’s name without having to prefix it with that of any male actor. Anyway, by now you should have heard that Aramm directed by Gopi Nainar is a powerful film portraying the stark reality of rural India. It is that indeed, and oh yes, it’ll leave you emotional (I was weeping at the end) with its telling of one of several hundred heard but unfelt stories of children falling into deep bore wells while another India is seemingly soaring to great heights.
It is the things that reviews are saying about Nayanthara that I beg to differ with. Says one review, “Nayanthara has proved — yet again — that she is an actress of substance.” Well, I thought, after performances in Maya and Dora, we still need proof that this woman is more than eye-candy, and that’s plain sad, because the men after making a (only) series of cringe worthy movies get away scot-free with no pressure to prove they’re good actors. Also, heroines get far few chances to prove themselves because they are usually busy falling in love with or waiting for the hero.
“It (the movie Aramm) asks her to step into the shoes of a mass hero, and this, she does in style”, “Nayanthara has been given a chance to step into a man’s shoes, and she has done this with style and substance”, are excerpts from other reviews. With its reaction shots, slow turn arounds, background score and lengthy dialogues, Aramm sure does give Nayanthara some ‘mass’ moments, but let’s not box her into a mass hero category or try to force into male shoes just yet.
The reason being that the male superstars feel the need to ‘give’ the audience a message, romance, comedy and stunt in equal measure, and forget to ‘give’ a good film in most cases. So for now, let’s revel in Nayanthara appearing on screen in no more than two modest costumes (if we can call sarees that), without pining for love or performing stunts for the sake of it. And let’s hope that this sets the stage for male heroes to appear on screen without wigs, big budgets, three heroines, a dose of Tamil culture and do more than stylishly walking around to prove their mettle as actors of substance.
Another review says “That he’s (The director) cast ‘Lady Superstar’ Nayanthara to lead this film, instead of a top commercial hero is refreshing,” and I wonder if any male star would agree to a film like this that brings out the actor in a star and uses the star to say the story. But here’s the other thing, while movies like Aramm do the much needed task of using cinema to talk about what we otherwise miss, we also must be able to watch heroines in roles that aren’t always revenge or socio-political dramas. I mean, we also need Nayanthara to act in ‘girls just want to have fun’ kind of films and be okay with it.
At the end of the day, it’s no news that the heroes of the films undermine heroines. The panel discussion that Aramm keeps cutting back to is really the crux of what Tamil Cinema is today — Lawyer Ajitha remains silent as the men around her drone on. Those who don’t know her thought about why she was on the panel and those who did were angry that she didn’t say anything. And after a movie like Aramm, I will be seething in anger if I were to see Nayanthara playing second fiddle to a hero. The time has come for her play Wonder Woman, but the question is do we have a Chris Pine in Tamil cinema?
The writer is a city-based activist, in-your-face feminist and a media glutton