Dilani Rabindran



Women in Real and Reel Life, Settai, 7 Khoon Maaf


We recently celebrated International Women’s Day, and hopefully gentlemen everywhere took a moment to honor the formidable females in their lives and reflect on how women deserve to be treated with respect every single day. In both real and reel life, they are mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, and best friends. And lately, thanks to a wave of modernization in Tamil cinema, they’re also a powerful bunch of diverse career women on screen, just like in reality.

Indian cinema is primarily hero-centric. Multiple female leads with equal weighting are a rarity, and usually not attempted unless there is an equal/greater number of heroes to balance. The ‘bromance’ genre is now heavily adopted with upcoming films like Settai; but other than Three Roses, it’s hard to recall a major female-friends related topic in Tamil cinema. But, as Behindwoods paid homage to in our special slideshow, Tamil cinema does have its storytellers who have dared to focus on strong female characters, and such themes are also now more common in Bollywood, with award-winning films like 7 Khoon Maaf and Kahaani. Unfortunately though, such inspiring women-centric stories are still a rarity, given that the market remains a hero-oriented one. But looking at the mass hero blockbusters of late, we should be grateful for the films that at least ‘give the leading girls ajob’. And not just any jobs - but a diverse range of powerful positions that break previously set molds which entailed the heroine of almost every Tamil film to be a perpetual student, or whose character was so undeveloped that the concept of what she might have done with her life (other than romance the hero) was never explored.

Many of the past year’s biggest films included female protagonists who were also professionals (or at least seemingly on the way towards becoming one). Female leads whose characters are not just groomed to be the ideal partners for the hero surpass old plotlines and open up the doors to countless new story possibilities. Anushka as an ophthalmologist in Thandavam and Kajal Agarwal as a translator in Maattran were cinematic proof of characters who were more than just eye-candy. 2013 is already off to a great start given refreshing roles such as Tabu’s entrepreneur of an illegal business in David, or Sneha’s impactful job as a specialized teacher in Haridas. Even the portrayal of women as authoritative villains who use more than gossip to causedestruction, like Neetu Chandra’s femme fatale in Aadhi Bhagavan, are appreciated. The team behind Vijay’s Jilla has also revealed that Kajal’s character is a “working woman”. In these films the heroes fall for not only looks, but brains and personalities as well.

It’s 2013 and women can have practically any career, and it’s refreshing to see development in Indian cinema that truly reflects this reality. These elements add depth and give talented actresses chances to showcase their dramatic worth even in films that are still heavily focused on their male co-stars. More importantly, we hear far too many horrifying stories regarding the ill treatment of women every day, so although giving a heroine’s character a career may seem like an insignificant aspect in a hero-oriented story, every move to better the image of women in Indian film and accurately reflect all thatthey are capable of is a welcome difference that hopefully helps change some chauvinistic mindsets. It may not seem like much compared to entirely heroine-focused films, but with every strong and professional woman portrayed on screen the plight of Indian and all women to be treated as equals receives a bit more support.

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