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By Arun
We often complain about how ladies are being given a raw deal in Tamil cinema; about how heroines are used just as glam dolls and showpieces while the men get to do all the serious stuff and walk away with the accolades leaving the woman looking like someone who can just look good, dance and swoon at the right places. Yes, there are a lot of examples, even in recent times, when this has been proved right over
and over again. This year’s Pongal release Siruthai was a very good example of this phenomenon, as were many other films that released last year. And, we can be sure that we have not seen the last of this. So, what can we do about it? Well, not much! Something that has
been around for more than 3 decades cannot be undone in a matter of weeks, can it? But, we sure can start a change which might perhaps bring about something lasting in the coming years. What is the change? We need to start noticing and appreciating good performances and substantial roles as and when w see them. Only that would give the courage to an up and coming actress to go off the beaten path and try different things. At the moment, the appreciation and recognition for the actresses who have shown the courage to be different is a bit on the lower side. Why would anyone feel like that?

A good example is the recent release of Mysskin – Yudham Sei. Now, it is not the kind of film or subject where an actress would find great scope, especially in the environs of Indian cinema. There is no romance, no songs, no melodrama or anything for which actresses are generally used. In fact, the film also had a classic example of one dimensional use of an actress; in the form of an item number. But, Yudham Sei can also be commended for giving an actress a role that is generally reserved for men, especially in Tamil cinema. Revenge, anger and killing are things that have been mostly kept miles away from actresses in more than 75 years of Tamil cinema. But, Mysskin chose to portray all these through an actress; Lakshmi Ramakrishnan. Yes, there were three men involved in the plan, but the initial cry for revenge came from the woman, that is where Mysskin was different from the others.

It did not end just there. He did not keep the actress a silent spectator as the revenge played out on screen. She was as much part of it as the men; in fact perhaps in a more vengeful and intense manner. For an actress who was perhaps safe and comfortable doing the regular character kind of roles in films like Boss @ Baskaran, Eeram and Thiru Thiru Thuru Thuru – this was a radical departure; something that required courage and immense faith in the director’s vision.

Actresses do not generally react favorably to any change in their looks or costumes in movies; they are very protective of the way they appear; mostly because of the age old traditions of Tamil cinema which require actresses to look good; just like leading men have to have their moustache ( at least most of the time). Here, Lakshmi Ramakrishnan showed exceptional dedication and understanding of the character in agreeing to go bald for the role; it would not have been an easy decision at all, but it was eventually the right one.

The industry and media are quick to recognize any out of the ordinary efforts taken by lead actors to get into the skin of their characters; think of Vikram for Pithamagan, the vibes that were created by Arya’s flowing locks for Naan Kadavul; the hysteria generated by Rajni’s ‘Motta Boss’ etc. Think of actresses; these are times when even appearing without make up in front of the camera is considered gutsy and courageous. Here, Lakshmi Ramakrishnan has transcended all this and gone as far as very few actresses in Tamil cinema have done before. And, disappointingly, there has been very little written or talked about that performance. A couple of lines in the review commending the effort would have sufficed; but everyone was too busy noticing Cheran.

This is not to say that Cheran was bad or that Lakshmi Ramakrishnan was unbelievably good. But, if such courage and guts from an actress went unnoticed, then actresses in future would find no reason to go out of their way to accomplish a tough role. Give this effort the recognition that is due and actresses in future will feel the incentive to be different, take an extra risk; so will directors be encouraged to entrust more responsibilities to actresses working under them. Yes, we have complained for long; now, there is a chance to start a positive change. Let’s do it.
Tags : Yudham Sei, Mysskin, Eeram, Thiru Thiru Thuru Thuru, Thambikottai, Siruthai
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