Non-glamorous ladies through the years
These are days when the line between a heroine and an item girl is blurring to the point of insignificance. Most heroines are also doing quite a handy job of providing all the glamour that an average commercial potboiler might require. Glamour is sometimes seen as an indispensable part of a leading heroine’s repertoire of skills. Those who are not adept at providing glamour or are unwilling to do so are often pushed to the second rung, the so-called ‘homely’ heroine category. But, is glamour really as important to a heroine as it is made out to be, perhaps not. The current trend might suggest that glamour is definitely a critical aspect for an actress, but taking into account the past few decades of Tamil cinema, one might be persuaded to think otherwise. We have had quite a few successful, top of the rung heroines who have never been

known to do glamorous roles. Even today, there are a few who believe that glamour is not everything. We can’t compare eras. The concepts of ‘glamour’ and ‘homeliness’ have changed over the decades. What is homely now would have scandalous even in the 1980s. What was glamorous in the 80s is perhaps subdue these days. That is not to say that Silk Smitha of the 80s could have been a ‘homely’ heroine in the 21st century, some things don’t change with time. This is to say that at least as far as glamour is concerned, nothing is set in stone. So, comparing a modern day heroine with a yesteryear heroine on the glamour scale is not practical. This article deals purely with the way the respective heroines have been perceived during their time and how they conformed to the accepted norms of that era.

Let’s work our way backwards from the present. As mentioned above, it is tough to point out at present anyone who has not at all had a brush with the glamour side of things. There can be no absolutes in the present when almost everyone has tried glamour to some extent at some time or the other, there can only be comparisons. On comparison, perhaps Bhavana and Gopika come to mind first. They seem to have been involved in the least glamorous roles among their contemporaries. Meera Jasmine could also be a candidate if a couple of movies are overlooked. Sneha is an enigma, oscillating between the glamorous and the traditional woman.

Towards the end of the 90s and during the early part of the 21st century, Devayani was perhaps the best example of the home grown-no glamour heroine. She began her career at a time when heroines were slowly usurping the glamour arena completely from the item girls. The influence can be seen in a few movies, but still Devayani was one who stood apart from the pack.

But, the best era was during the late 80s and early 90s when we had perhaps the best actresses in lead roles, all at the same time. Glamour was not a factor at all for them. They captivated us by their emoting skills. How one wishes to have those times back? Revathy and Suhasini are the names that first come to mind. They did roles that Tamil cinema will always be proud of, they were assets to the industry (they still are). National Award winner Archana is another example. She might not have been prolific, but she always ensured quality. An actress who exuded dignity and charm was Sithara. Pity, she was not seen in too many films.

Before this era, it is really difficult to judge glamour quotients. Those were times when lead ladies strictly kept away from glamour, of course there were exceptions. But, the majority was inclined towards the homely and traditional. That was the era of Saroja Devi, K.R. Vijaya and the likes. There were times when Saroja Devi was said to be glamorous for appearing in night gowns that flowed way below the ankle. But, in all fairness, that was the era when actress only acted, never exposed.

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