An Open Letter To The Tamil Film Industry, On Behalf of All Women Viewers

It is heartening to see Tamil films doing so well across the country, but where are the women?

Dear Tamil Film Fraternity,

I am so happy that all 4 South Indian Film industries are breaking barriers and reaching an all-time high in India.

Thanks to OTT platforms, social media, the internet, and various other resources.

Hurray for the modern-day portrayal of male characters

I am happy that male stars in their 60s and 70s are celebrated and playing their age in Tamil films.

We are not showing them paired with a young girl 40 years younger than their age or them running around trees or lusting after them like Telugu films.

Telugu stars please take note and please stop acting in cheap movies and telling fans want that. No, they don’t! Please act in sensible roles and give way to the younger generation and guide them.

Were films and women characters more progressive earlier?

Now let’s take a closer look at the 80s era which I consider the Golden era of Tamil Cinema. The technological advancement had started in terms of cinematography (PC Sriram/Mani Ratnam combo first Mouna Ragam), music (first computer music- Punnagai Mannan!), and major women-oriented roles written enabling actresses of 80s to break through the male-dominant film industry.

Lady Superstar Revathy created waves and had her own market. Her films almost ran for 100 days and she was a natural actor! She is talented, and was able to carry off bold characters like Pudmai Penn, Manvassanai, Mouna Ragam, Kizhakku Vasal, Marupadiyum, and many more.

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Suhasini did Manathil Urudi Vendum, Sindhu Bhairavi. Saritha did Achamillai Achamillai. K. Balachander, Bharathiraja, Mani Ratnam, and many other directors/scriptwriters gave importance to female characters as the main leads. Veteran actors like Sivaji sir (50s) used to play his age and pair up with Padmini amma, KR Vijaya amma like Kalthoon, and Padikada Panniyar.

A look at female representation in recent Tamil films

My question is why are today’s Tamil films not giving importance to female characters? You have veteran stars with mass commercial storylines but women seem to be mere wives or grandmothers of that protagonist. e.g. Ramya Krishnan’s role in Jailer was really not necessary. There was no value added to the character.

Take another example, the daughter-in-law. She is there for an emotional scene. I don’t even want to talk about Tamannaah’s role! Are women just there to be in the item songs or play the roles of wives? Where is the character development?

Inclusion is not just lip service

Why can’t scriptwriters come up with strong female characters? Or have the directors become too focussed on profits only? Is there no one like the director Balu Mahendra who continued to make art films with a little commercial element to them?

To the directors, take a step back and think. Please give opportunities to brilliant actresses, irrespective of their age, and include them in commercial movies with strong storylines and characters.

Women have careers too

Please portray these women as career-oriented, as a mentor or coach to the younger female characters in the films. I feel the 80s and 90s were far more progressive portrayals of women compared to these days.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion should be there in the film industry. Acting is a professional career just like any other role, and the industry should treat female actors and their on-screen personas with more respect.

Header Image Source: Screen grab from the film ‘Annaatthe‘ on Netflix

In-post image source: Still from the movie Jailer via Prime

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