When the world is fighting stereotypes and redefining the meaning of beauty, the Telugu version of Malayalam super-hit movie Premam takes a step backwards.
Sai Pallavi is well-known in Malayalam cinema for going makeup free in her movies. Hardly a couple of movies old, she is creating ripples in South India. She nonchalantly displays her acne and shows us that high-cheek bones and acne can work as well for a movie actress as it would do for a real life woman.
Equally amazing is the role of Malar Miss in Premam. Malar is a mature, stable and intense woman who is very rare to find in mainstream Indian movies. The actor and the role initially seemed like they wee made for each other, until the movie was remade in Telugu. Shruti Hassan plays the role of Malar in Telugu, while Sai Pallavi breathed life into the same in the Malayalam version.
Malayalam director Alphonse Puthren accorded importance to Malarand her role, rather than to just to her looks as is usual in cinema. She uses pastel colors, flat footwear, plain shirts, and her natural hair curls and pink pimply cheeks. These characteristics talk about her, they define her, and more importantly, they add intensity to the words she speaks.
Alphonse was the one that came up with the idea of Pallavi’s natural, makeup free look. She said in an interview with The Hindu, “When Alphonse said he wanted the natural look for Premam, I was not sure at all. But it helped me become a more confident person. And I guess that has helped a lot of young girls improve their self-esteem. It is important, especially in these times when there is so much social pressure among young girls to look perfect.”
God, she is picture perfect. And the Telugu version is a complete contrast. Tollywood’s Malar walks in with rolled hair, layers of makeup, bright vibrant coloured saris and salwar kameez. Sadly, this shows that for every step we are moving forward, we are taking one backwards.
Premam is the story of a guy who falls in love with three different women in the course of his life – Anupama Parameswaran, Sai Pallavi (as Malar) and Madonna Sebastian play the roles sequentially. In the end, it is Madonna who goes hand-in-hand with the hero. Yet, Sai Pallavi makes the movie what it is, special to everyone.
Anupama and Madonna are copied and pasted from Malayalam to Telugu just as they are. When the other two female leads are played by the same actors as in the Malayalam version, why not Malar? Maybe that would make 75% of the cast the same and eliminate a practical reason for a remake. Yet, any artistic or sensible person on the face of the earth would not settle for anyone but Sai Pallavi as Malar. The others’ roles are simply replaceable.
The same story made in two different states obviously showed an immense difference in them. Do these tweaks show a different cultural inclination among Telugu audiences?
These two versions of the same movie have the exact same story line, but while there is a so-called progression in the hero’s role in Telugu, there is an outright regression in the heroines’ roles. The way the Telugu version has whitewashed the actual Malar and made other modifications is a clear picture of its audience’s perceived taste. After all, the movie makers eye profits first and show only what they believe is in the radar of the common man.
However, Sai Pallavi is here to change the way Indian actors are portrayed in movies. I am waiting to see her in the next venture in Telugu by Shekar Kammula. Will they mould a character for her or will they turn her into yet another Indian actress?
I hope and pray that the latter option doesn’t see the light of day.
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Image source: movie promo stills