Women in Tamil cinema

Last Updated: Wed, Mar 08, 2006 06:39 hrs

India's new woman has much to celebrate about. Today, we find more and more women in familiar and surprising places - as heads of giant conglomerates, high officials in the Police Department, at the controls of aircraft ... and the most trusted and loved faces, like Barkha Dutt or a Anubha Bhosle.

The all-new woman is rapidly redefining her limits and emerging to claim the traditionally male space as her own. Whether it be an all-woman police station, a houseboat crew in Kumarakom or a Sonali Chander as cricket commentator and anchor, women have conquered the traditional male preserve.

However, in Tamil cinema women are still treated and portrayed as a doormat, lover or wife of a larger-than-life hero. They have not moved beyond unidimensional caricatures of unreal women in the mainstream Tamil entertainment scenario. The woman is either an amazingly self-righteous person with a single-minded dedication for the well-being of her family or a girl lusting after the hero, dressed in minimal clothes and always singing songs in Swiss Alps or Pollachi landscapes with lewd lyrics.

To add insult to injury, the portrayal of women in recent films is terribly unsophisticated, characterised by scantily-clad heroines singing songs with terrible grotesque movements. The woman in Tamil cinema does not seem to be evolving at all. If anything, she is more of a sexual object - an ‘item girl’ who can be used to sell the film!

Kollywood excuses itself by claiming that it is the agent of fantasy and is going by box-office dikat and mass appeal. The problem is that the stereotypes are so deeply entrenched in our cinema and it is difficult to break it.

The typical heroine found in only Tamil cinema-

A rich, educated upper class girl falling for the hero who is an illiterate rowdy, goonda and a vagabond. The guy humiliates her in public, makes indecent remarks about her clothes (remember that she wears revealing outfits before they fall in love) and it is always the heroine who lusts after the macho hero. Watch the recent crop- Maja, Sivakasi, Aaru, Idaya Thirudan, Chithirem Pesuthedi, Thambi .

Tamil script writers are yet to portray strong women characters who have a mind of their own and continue with retrograde depictions of women. When was the last time you saw a powerful woman-oriented film? Sadly, even women prefer to portray themselves as the sentimental and long-suffering kind. The protagonist in director Revathy Varma’s June R was an unstable woman who needed immediate psychiatric help!

And comedy scenes in Tamil cinema always pokes fun at women and refers them as “super figure” or “item”. Tamil cinema is totally hero-centric and women characters have a bleak future here. This year's only hit, Kalvanin Kathali, opens with the hero S.J.Suryah going up to a lady in an airport lounge and telling her to hide her plunging neckline as we are “Tamils”!

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