Of all characters actresses play on the silver screen, it’s playing a prostitute that is either seen as controversial or as challenging. Controversial because there’s always the sex appeal of a licentious woman to exploit. Challenging because actresses say it draws them out of their comfort zone.
There was a time when actresses in the southern film industries hesitated to play a prostitute, call girl or escort. Producers, it would be alleged, used such characters and their lusty scenes to lure male audiences. Today, it’s all changed where actresses feel they have notched an achievement with playing a prostitute. Shruti Hassan will be seen playing a Pakistani prostitute in D-Day. Sandalwood’s Ramya will do the same in Neer Dose, while Hariprriya will essay a call girl in Abbai Class Ammai Mass (ACAM).
Getting to know the character
To get under the skin of her character, Hariprriya attended an acting workshop to help her pick up local slang and the body language needed to portray a call girl. “I have played various characters in the 20 odd films I have done. I didn’t want monotony to set in with being part of love stories and family dramas. Playing a call girl seems most challenging. Not many get such an opportunity at my age. The fact that the director trusted me with such a role, makes me glad,” says Haripriya. Abbai Class Ammai Mass is now in the post-production.
ACAM has already generated curiosity in the industry. “I have been busy with two other films, one in Tamil and another in Telugu. But this role has become the talk of the town. Wherever I go, people ask me about the movie and its release date. Even the soundtrack that released, recently, has become a huge hit,” Hariprriya says.
For all its demands on her talent, Hariprriya concedes she was very uncomfortable playing a call girl. She says, “I have always played the homely girl. It was difficult to act sensual, that’s where the workshop helped a lot. I acquainted myself with the vocabulary they use, how to modulate my voice and the body language I need to use. Finally, I am glad did this and hope people will like it.”
Taking the bold step
In the past we had actresses like Anushka Shetty, Bindu Madhavi, Sangeetha and Charmi Kaur who took the bold step of playing a prostitute. They considered it as an experiment and impressed the audience by being part of heroine-centric films. Actress Shriya Saran is upbeat about her movie titled Pavithra - Aame O Apavitra in which she plays the role of a prostitute. Trisha, who is usually seen as a glam doll, will portray a call girl in her next film RUM, which is being made in all the four major south Indian languages.
“While each film uses a new approach to the subject of a call girl, actresses feel playing one is a challenge for them,” said Vijay Prasad, director of Neer Dose. He was particular about casting Ramya in the role.
According to Vijay, not every heroine can play a character whose sexual identity is underlined. “The subject will definitely need a popular heroine who can be bold about it. Such a subject has to be seen from the perspective of the box office too,” he says.
However, Vijay doesn’t see playing a prostitute as a career-making move.“A heroine portrays such a role when she is at her peak. In most films, heroines are required to play glam dolls and nothing else. Obviously actresses who take up such roles feel that they can explore their talent better, a move they term as ‘experimental’.
Heroines who have portrayed such characters have got popular and the ‘trend’ is then followed by many actresses, as it is happening now. The reason for this is simple - the hype it creates,” he says. “There are some leading ladies for whom such experiments will not work. For example, the audience will never want to see Khusbhoo play a prostitute.”