A year that changed the notion about heroines


By. KR Rejeesh

Showbiz is always enamoured of the term ‘bold’ when a photograph/photo shoot/video of a scantly-dressed actress emerges on social media or in newspapers. It’s one of the erroneous approaches by our media that pigeonholes intimate scenes or steamy photographs of actresses as their ‘bold avatar.’ Modern interviewers have the trite question to actors with respect to being ‘bold’: “How was your experience in the lip-lock scene?” Interestingly, with regards to performance, the term ‘bold’ is used as an epithet ONLY for an actress, who dons an unconventional role that triggers shock among viewers. Gender equality goes for a toss here!

In 2022, Malayalam Cinema saw a few ‘bold’ moves (performance-wise) from female actors contrary to the usual shadow roles they were destined to perform within the invisible circle drawn by the hero.

As we bid adieu to 2022, the sole positive change that occurred in Malayalam last year was the onscreen portrayal of meaningful and rather shocking characters by the actresses.

They defied as well as redefined the concept of conventional heroines with hammy and gullible traits. Indeed, the credit has to be shared with its writers and directors also.

The reflection of the changes that occur in society especially the empowerment of women was evident in films too. Romantic song sequences of heroines are a passe in Malayalam even as there are umpteen fans for the so-called ‘item dance’ being performed by nubile actors. Ever since our films shed their dramatic hues and started to embrace tales with natural flavour, it also paved the way for getting dignified and prominent roles for actresses. Many in the new generation would identify a demure heroine like Mini in “Aniyathipravu” or suffering Vijaya in “Thulabharam” as a misfit on screen albeit such characters are still living amongst us.

Notably, women characters came to the fore last year with strong performances by unleashing certain intricacies in human nature like betrayal, lust, revenge, brutal instinct and sexual propensity. As an actor, Durga Krishna reinvented herself by playing the most cunning and wicked female character of 2022 in “Udal.” The brutality of Shyni not only triggered shock among viewers but also torn away the veil of a typical disciplined housewife with pent-up emotions. Call it a bold attempt by Durga since she defied the general cinematic concepts required for a heroine and bravely lapped up the image-breaking role. Swasika Vijay also had a different appearance in “Chathuram” with shades of villainy and cruel motives.

Themes of lesbianism and homosexuality, which were deemed as taboo in our films, were discussed in flicks like “Holy Wound,” “Vichithram” and “Monster.” It seems that only now our writers have got the temerity to explore such themes in mainstream films. In “Holy Wound,” a film sans dialogues, actors Janaki Sudheer and Amrita Vinod could bring out the sexual identity of the characters extremely well. Actor Anaswara Rajan’s character in “Mike” was first-of-its-kind in Malayalam. The film depicted the realisation of a girl about her inner call to transform to another gender.

Unfortunately, slipshod writing and making made the film a disaster.

Gone are the days when a heroine was considered as the embodiment of virtue. Aarsha Baiju as Meenakshi in “Mukundan Unni Associates” shows how heroines have graduated to the terrain of challenging their counterparts by hiding their evil intentions and using expletives when situation demands. It’s a good sign that actresses are open to unconventional roles that would certainly prompt them to come out of the comfort zone of shaking a leg with hero in foreign streets or green landscapes.

Last year, women characters fighting against all odds were the themes of films like “19 (1) (a),” “Archana 31 Not Out,” “Oruthee,” “Keedam,” “Sundari Gardens,” “Ini Utharam,” “Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey,” “Kumari,” “Nishiddho,” “Saudi Vellakka,” “The Teacher” and “Ariyippu.”

The overwhelming reception of “Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey” and acceptance of Darshana Rajendran’s Jaya show that strong women characters can’t be ignored as mere feminism.

In fact, it hints at the emerging female mindset and its urge to grab a relevant space in family and society by breaking the shackles of traditional belief and orthodox set up. Divya Prabha as Reshmi in “Ariyippu” shows the tenacity of a woman even under pressure and in the context of a tantalising offer for a job abroad. The character’s individuality is vivid through-out the film.

The scenario is changing in society as well as in cinema as more women are waiting in the wings to take up challenges in their profession with a strong desire to explore out-of-the-box situations. At least in films, they proved the end of banal roles last year and it’s time to break further the image!


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