Not easy to be at centre stage

The word ‘heroine’ could mean ‘a legendary woman with great strength and ability’ or ‘the principal female character in a literary work.’ The second meaning is a little more plausible and it could be manipulated. It has a fallacy. As long as the role is the most important amongst all the female characters in the movie, we are good. And thus, started the abuse of the ‘heroine’ as a tectonic shift has reduced her to ‘-ine’, sans the ‘hero’, a suffix, a footnote.

Mind you, there is still the occasional female lead role – Arundhati, Kartavyam, Pratighatana and Rudhramadevi come to mind. However, good roles for heroines is almost an oxymoron now.

One is reminded of movies like Swarnakamalam, about a reluctant dancer who is coaxed and cajoled into embracing her calling, where Bhanupriya made us laugh and sigh as her lilt with a comic timing blended beautifully with graceful dance. While Venkatesh’s role cannot be undermined, it is the beauty of Bhanupriya’s character that allures a movie lover. K Viswanath gave the industry several such gems, where he unflinchingly created characters of substance. Sirivennela has two actresses playing sublime roles which hardly find a match in the modern-day sketches of heroines.

Not easy to be at centre stage

Sankarabharanam offers Manju Bhargavi an impressive role of a prostitute’s daughter who has a sincere devotion for music and dance. In Anthuleni Katha Jayaprada takes centre stage. K Raghavendra Rao’s Padaharella Vayusu stars Sridevi and revolves around the evolution of a 16-year old girl who traverses the alleys of heartbreak and eventually makes the audience empathise with the maturity her character gains gradually. Over the years, the cosmetic layers that have eaten into the soul of Raghavendra Rao’s heroines are symbolic of the plight of the Telugu movie heroine too.

Award-winning roles over the years tell us the story. The 70s and 80s, which were probably the golden days of Telugu cinema, gave us powerful heroines like Vanisri in Jeevana Jyothi, Jayasudha in Jyothi and Radhika in Nyayam Kavali with great regularity. Compare that to the winners in the last decade and the difference is stark. Shruti Haasan for her role in Race Gurram, which has as much meat as a vegetarian thali does; and it is not for any dearth of acting talent. Even movies like Godavari, Anand and the recently-released Pelli Choopulu which managed to strike the right balance between hero and heroine are a rarity these days!

Samantha had a meaty role in Eega and Genelia D’Souza enthralled audiences with her role in Bommarillu, matching those of lead characters Siddharth and Prakash Raj. Soundarya in Anthahpuram and Anushka in Vedam played roles that were conjured with respect. Respect – that is the word that comes to mind – the defining difference between the heroine of the yesteryear and the heroine of now, who is probably like a blank tile in Scrabble. Use it wherever it fits. One can only hope that those golden heroines of the past make a comeback. That day, we could celebrate feminism in Telugu movies in its true essence!

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Printable version | Oct 13, 2021 9:36:27 AM |

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