In December 2022 Trisha Krishnan celebrated 20 years of her film career. Wait, let’s word it differently. This yearend saw “us” celebrate #20YearsofTrisha.
How great this sounds, right? The trailer of Rangi, her upcoming Tamil release, looks good and it reminds us that she has been playing only the lead role for over two decades. Women stars have mostly had a short career in films when compared to their male counterparts, which is why it’s great to see the ‘age-myth’ broken.
For Trisha, playing Kundavai in Maniratnam’s Ponniyin Selvan 1 was a personal triumph as she owned the role. In the film, she was rewarded for holding on to her choice of rejecting character roles and cameos. She put herself ahead of the game with regard to fitness and lifestyle.
The wait has paid off and we have one of the most popular woman stars of South India soar again, as she plays the female lead in Thalapathy 67 – Lokesh Kanakaraj’s film, about to be released in 2023, with Vijay.
Not Easy Being a Female Lead
It’s quite easy to brush off women’s hard work and fitness. While videos of Jyothika hitting the gym and doing her rigorous fitness training are inspirational, Simran’s diva quotient gets a new lease of life with her reprising the role that Tabu did in Andha Dhun.
Let me be more clear – it’s not easy being the female lead in a male dominated industry. It’s not easy to hold your ground and demand what you deserve and see that you get it. Yes, it doesn’t get handed out on a platter for both men and women, but for women it’s tougher. One not just has to remain fit but also remain young on screen. Hats off to the girls who are doing it and doing it well at that.
Women Stars Who Are Sticking On
In celebrating 20 years of Trisha we also celebrate the fact that women actors need not anymore play the roles of mother and sister, once they cross 30 years of age. Nayanthara is one actor who is still rocking it as a lead woman because of her box office pull. Her popularity among working women and girl students is also because of how she’s faced her life and lived it on her terms.
Samantha Ruth Prabhu is another example of a woman scaling the highly competitive heroine ladder and reaching the top in both Tamil and Telugu films after both marriage and divorce. She doesn’t shy away from being a fashion diva nor does she stop herself short from taking on bold roles and being brilliant in portraying them.
Did Bollywood Accept Women Leads First?
In Hindi cinema, the leading ladies reached this point of power a little earlier than their Southern counterparts. Marriage and children have not (they rightly should not) stop many of Bollywood’s leading ladies from taking on bold roles (remember Aishwarya Rai in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil?).
Top heroines Deepika Padukone and Aliaa Bhatt are both leading powerful films as well as donning mainstream roles where their presence is as key to the film as much as the male leads.
Look at Deepika Padukone sizzle in the song Besharam Rang and you know that consistent hard work did go into how she looks the way she does. She has also been doing films for 16 years now.
I’ve never seen a more body-confident heroine than Deepika Padukone and as Shah Rukh Khan said at the inauguration of the Kolkata Film Festival, there is a whole lot of positivity that keeps us all together so we should not focus on the negativity.
Pathan is as much a Deepika spectacle as much as it is an SRK power trip at the box office. Who better than the top pair of SRK and Deepika to sell oomph, glamor, and sensuality?
We have a Ponniyin Selvan which is as much a triumph for its two leading women as it has been for its three men. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan delivered a scintillating Nandini and one has to remember that she’s poised to touch 50 year next year.
The way she works on a film will tell you that her beauty alone is not what she wants you to notice. It’s her dedicated hard work, professionalism, and personal warmth that will impress you when you meet her.
It’s good to see women defy age-related norms and win big in terms of bagging the mega budget films as well as break the glass ceiling, like Priyanka Chopra did, internationally.
Women Actors in South Now Winning Big
It’s tremendous to see a woman actor arrive at a point where roles are written for her. Aishwarya Rajesh of Tamil industry, whose Farhana awaits a December release, is an example. Shruti Haasan too has some big releases coming up in Telugu in 2023.
It’s good to see that a heroine’s position in the pecking order of the industry has thankfully improved because of the effort, perseverance, and talent of every single woman actor mentioned so far.
It's not easy to remain sorted when your life unfolds before the public eye. It becomes important to be true to yourself and add professional values to your work, sometimes even more than the men, because we are miles away from an equitable world. I’ve seen these values in the 1980s heroines of the South – Radikaa, Suhasini, Nadiya, and Revathy, who all continue to work and remain relevant in their space even now.
Sometimes it needs extra gumption to break the rules set by a patriarchal society and industry.
It’s about time we celebrate our heroines; our golden girls as I would call them. These women can bank roll films and content on OTT too, solely on their name. I am hoping that 2023 will see more heroines added to this list.