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the bold and beautiful women of Andrea Jeremiah

In the curious teaser of Taramani, directed by Ram, a line at the beginning reads, “the dialogues allowed by censors are muted. And muted dialogues are allowed here.” The teaser goes on to showcase the female protagonist, played by Andrea Jeremiah, being mocked by a group of men and she has an altercation with them. Infuriated by the their attitude, she walks to them and thrashes them with her footwear. All we can hear are the cuss words uttered by her - all the other dialogues are muted, except a playful guitar that almost seems to mock the Censor Board.

The kick-ass teaser was not only a dig at the Censor Board, which tagged the movie with an Adults Only certification for its less-than-sanskari dialogues and situations, but also a statement about the central character played by Andrea Jeremiah. After all those years of running around trees, shedding tears for heroes, igniting their romantic interests, and helping situations that boast their masculinity, here is a heroine who stands up and expresses her needs, desires and opinions without giving a damn about what the society thinks of her.

Mainstream cinema has always projected and worshipped female stereotypes that fit the norms of the society of an ideal woman. These moulds are made purely from the patriarchal clay of ideas with little or no connection to the complex feminine mindscape. A very few templates are available for our talented actresses over the years and they have to portray all the shades of being a woman in a men’s world using that templates like “good” mother, “good” sister, “good” lover, “good” wife, etc.

However, with the emergence of actresses like Andrea, these templates have started trembling, as they can’t accommodate the exuberance of these women characters. Ironically, the most annoying thing about them for the male protagonists is that these women start to thinking and taking their own decisions. The entire movie of Taramani is built upon this contradiction. It is a paradigm shift in the portrayal of leading ladies because it makes these women more liberated, humane and representative.

Such a revolutionary turn is not possible without a bunch of revolutionary actors, and Andrea Jeremiah marks her place in this spectrum of boldness with standing out characters like Althea Johnson (Taramani), Lakshmi (Aval), Pritha (Thupparivaalan), and Anna (Annayum Rasoolum). These women do what they think is right and take responsibility for their actions. They are ready to fight their battles alone, or side-by-side with the male hero, instead of relying on his macho power to solve their problems.

In fact, by choosing standalone characters like above, Andrea Jeremiah joins the new wave of gender awareness about the portrayal of women and femininity onscreen, that has been sweeping across industries like Malayalam and Hindi after 2010s. As the suppressed and silenced feminine expressions find voices all across the world, it is natural that the silver screen gets a fair share of the transformational spirit. A thrashing and a few cuss words are waiting for those men who belong to an old world order, and those verbal and physical explosions are not muted by the censorship of the society anymore. As Andrea precisely put it in a recent interview, all we have to do is write some wonderful female characters out of the templates for those daring women to perform, because days of mansplaining are over.

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