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Karma Eats Man, Woman Inherits Tamil Cinema

Female-centric films are taking over the TN box office. Is this now a trend?

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Indian Cinema
3 min read
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Even a random look-back at some memorable releases in Tamil over the last year and a half, will reveal a surprising trend of female-centric films taking over the collective consciousness. In dealing with demonetisation, Jayalalithaa’s death and the film producers’ strike, has the Tamil audience suddenly matured?

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Nayanthara’s Dream Run

Nayanthara is arguably the biggest star in Tamil cinema after Jyothika’s run came to a gradual end by around 2006. Over the last decade, she has managed to re-invent herself many times over, starting with a stunning physical transformation in Billa (2007), then playing Sitha in the mythological Sri Ramarajyam (2010) and then holding her own as the star and ghost in Maya (2015).

It was with the success of 2017’s Aramm that she made her stardom official. To ensure arses-to-seats for a woman-centric film that has no songs, and hinges on a non-masala plot, is an achievement in itself.

For perspective, the only memorable male-centric film from 2017 was Vijay’s Mersal, which was also the biggest film of the year. But Mersal banked on literally ALL of the tropes of a mass film; Tamil identity, Jallikattu bulls, shock value of gory, innocent on-screen deaths and of course liberal doses of chauvinism.

Which is why, Aramm, and Nayanthara, stand apart, and tall!

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Aruvi, the Beautiful Falls

Aruvi (2017), directed by Arun Prabhu, is a social commentary that’s as much about ripping apart a popular talk show, as it is about holding a mirror to you, the audience.

It traces the life of Aruvi, a 25-year-old woman through multiple narratives and unpredictable circumstances. Tragedy, gunshots, rape, abandonment; Aruvi goes through it all. And yet, there is hope at the end, because neither the character, nor the film passes judgement. Disillusionment never felt this good!

This was the underdog film, where every frame was so real it was unpredictable till the very end.

And at the heart of it all, was a debutante woman actor.

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‘JO’ is Back!

Jyothika’s rise to stardom in Tamil cinema, her sudden exit to focus on her personal life, and her reprise after 15 years with 36 Vayathinile (2015) all of these have been picture perfect and well timed.

She is now a standalone female lead actor who can carry a film entirely on her shoulders. Which is exactly what she did in Naachiyar (2017). She plays a tough cop who has a natural sailor’s mouth. This is a complete anti-thesis to the ‘bubbly’ persona she developed on screen, which producers banked earlier on.

Magalir Mattum, which released in September the same year was yet another film which featured an ensemble cast of four leads, all of whom were women. Jyothika plays a journalist in the film and lends star power more than anything else. This film too had a decent run, which was cut short thanks to the political unrest that prevailed at the time.

Jyothika has got a few more releases lined up for this year and the next, and the buzz is strong with her.

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Mahanati and the Female-Centric Future of 2018

Yes, I say this despite the fact that this is a Rajinikanth year. Despite the fact that Kaala crossed TN, spread through India and the world in a wave of politically charged narrative and plot, 2018 is going to be a woman-centric year for Tamil cinema.

While nowhere near as huge a release as a Rajinikanth film, Keerthi Suresh’s multi-lingual biopic on actor Savitri titled Mahanati (Telugu) or Nadigayar Thilagam (Tamil) won hearts in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu. While this was Keerthi’s first film as the only lead, she proved she could handle centre stage, and that the audience was ready for such movies.

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With the producers’ strike in Tamil Nadu that lasted over two months (Feb 6 - April 18), a number of movies took a hit. But there hasn’t been a single Tamil film worth writing about yet this year so far. Until, of course, the single of CoCo ripped through YouTube.
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There’s talk of two highways in Tamil Nadu right now. One is the contentious 8 lane highway proposed across Chennai - Salem. And the other is the highway heist film that CoCo promises to be. Again, starring Nayanthara, the single stole Kaala’s thunder with over 37 million views. It’s taken Kaala’s teaser four months to get to 30 million views, while none of its songs have enjoyed such virality.

Trisha’s Mohini, which is set to release on 27th July isn’t promising. And there aren’t enough female-centric films in the pipeline this year to call it a ‘trend’. Nevertheless, they are what stand out in an otherwise featureless rut of ‘soup-boy-songs’, vulgarity and failed attempts at clubbing entertainment with a message.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Nayanthara   Jyothika 

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