Women and Tollywood

Actress Radhika Apte’s remarks about Tollywood being a male-dominated industry has brought back the age-old debate of how women are portrayed in Telugu films. City Express takes a look at how the situation still remains unchanged

Published: 19th May 2015 06:04 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th May 2015 06:04 AM   |  A+A-

Portrayal of a mother

We all know how mothers are respected, but filmy mothers are totally different from real life ones. Often movies show mothers as those whose opinions are not valued. She is the protagonist’s best friend, helping and supporting him in all his endeavours, including bringing home a good looking girl. Example, Ullasamga Utsahamga. This film was appreciated for its simple story and comic element where the lead Yasho Sagar steals the show. He has undivided attention from his mother and sister and when he falls in love with Sneha Ullal (the simple yet beautiful girl who makes regular trips to temples), he takes them to a temple so that they ‘check out’ the girl the man is in love with. 

tollywood3.jpgMan is the idol?

No matter how handsome or rich a man is, we do not see women following influential men wherever they go. But that is not the case with Telugu heroes.

Majority of Telugu films work on this principle where the hero is the idol and the heroine’s only aim is to be a part of his drama. Example, Indra. This blockbuster film starring Chiranjeevi, Sonali Bendre and Aarti Agarwal released in the year 2002. Aarti Agarwal is a foreign-return, independent woman, her goal is to win Indra’s heart. Though her initial aim is to avenge his grand uncle’s death, she eventually falls in love and dances to his tunes. On the other hand, Sonali Bendre falls for the man and plays all kinds of tricks to win his heart. All this while, Indra is trying serve people selflessly. 

Hero can do anything

tollywood4.jpgThis is a pattern that is followed by almost all directors. Take for instance, Puri Jagannadh’s Idiot. Starring Ravi Teja, this film shows that the hero gets what he wants. He follows heroine Rakshita everywhere – to her classroom, the canteen, parking lot and even her bedroom and tells her that she belongs to him. He even fights some other boys who try to tease her. Not because it is crime, but for the fact that he owns her. Though the heroine revolts initially, she eventually gives in.

A more recent film is Krishna Vamsi’s Govindudu Andarivadele where the hero Ram Charan blackmails heroine Kajal with her pictures if she does not hug and kiss him when he wants her to.

Off screen, these instances are considered crimes by law.

Heroines are cool, like their male counterparts

A few may disagree with the above examples because there are films, even in the past where women had a performance-oriented roles. Aren’t we all familiar with Vijayashanti?

However, instead of portraying her as a powerful individual, Vijayashanti labelled ‘lady Amitabh’ was shown as the lady version of a angry young man. The actress who started off as glamour queen, started getting appreciation for her roles as a police officer. She dressed like a man, behaved like a man only to show that in order to be powerful, a woman needs to feel like a man.    

There is hope

However, Tollywood is not entirely male-dominated. Thanks to a few sensible filmmakers. One such is Sekhar Kammula.

This 2004-film Anand talks about the story of a girl who loses her parents in an accident and tries hard to make ends meet. She finds a suitable boy, (governed by his mother, her likes, wishes and dislikes) and decides to marry him. She wishes to wear her mother’s saree for the wedding but lands in a disagreement with her to-be mother-in-law. Kamalini Mukherjee takes the drama to the next level by calling off the marriage as she cannot wear her mother’s saree.  The director’s next film Happy Days also portrayed women as independent and capable of taking their own decisions and standing by them.

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