Paisa Vasool, Vivegam, Kabali, Khaidi no 150: In a sea of male stars, where is female talent?

Karthik Keramalu

Sep 04, 2017 17:15:58 IST

Chiranjeevi: Daddy, Indra, Tagore, Anji, Shankar Dada MBBS, Andarivaadu, Jai Chiranjeeva, Stalin, Shankar Dada Zindabad, Khaidi No. 150.

Balakrishna: Vijayendra Varma, Veerabhadra, Mitrudu, Sri Rama Rajyam, Uu Kodathara? Ulikki Padathara?, Srimannarayana, LionDictator, Gautamiputra Satakarni, Paisa Vasool.

Rajinikanth: Arunachalam, Padayappa, Baba, Chandramukhi, Sivaji, Kuselan, Enthiran, Kochadaiiyaan, Lingaa, Kabali.

Kamal Haasan: Mumbai Express, Rama Shama Bhama, Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu, Dasavathaaram, Unnaipol Oruvan, Manmadhan Ambu, Vishwaroopam, Uttama Villain, Papanasam, Thoongaa Vanam.

Just take a look at the last ten films starring the male stars of Telugu and Tamil cinema. Don’t most of the titles and movies revolve around the characters of the male protagonist?

We last saw Rajinikanth on screen in Kabali.

Chiranjeevi, Balakrishna, Rajinikanth, and Kamal Haasan have been the headlights of show business in their respective industries for around four decades. With each film from the above list, the actors’ fan bases have grown tremendously. Despite the lulls and dips in their careers, these men have bounced back to claim their throne.

Chiranjeevi had walked away from the glamorous pleasures of being the Megastar to enter politics in 2008. Between 2008 and 2017, many stars tried to take the place of Telugu cinema’s number one position. Though Allu Arjun, Prabhas, Ram Charan, and Jr. NTR came close, Chiranjeevi’s brother, Pawan Kalyan, and Mahesh Babu got closer to the King’s seat. But when Chiranjeevi made a comeback with Khaidi No. 150 (the title refers to his 150th film) earlier this year, he enjoyed the same adulation he received a decade ago.

The more surprising factor for his fans and the larger audience was that Chiranjeevi hadn’t lost a spring in his step even after ten years. His Khaidi No. 150 was more cheerful, with importance given to crowd-pleasing songs and lines, than the Tamil original (Kaththi) that starred Vijay in the lead.

The absence of star status for women

What would happen if a female star makes a comeback after ten years? She wouldn’t certainly be received with garlands and slogans in movie houses. Her posters wouldn’t get milk abhishekams; her film wouldn’t gross Rs. 100 Crore at the box office. None of the noise that surrounded Chiranjeevi’s comeback vehicle would hold true for a female actor. Would she be the leading lady in the first place? I doubt it.

Daddy’s Simran has been starring in supporting roles since 2008’s Vaaranam Aayiram. Vijayendra Varma’s Laya and Ankitha are not seen on the map of films from 2010. Arunachalam’s Soundarya passed away in 2004, and Rambha hasn’t made an appearance on the big screen in a long time. And Mumbai Express’s Manisha Koirala is no more a leading lady in the true sense of Indian cinema.

Chiranjeevi and Ram Charan.

Where do the heroines of Telugu and Tamil cinema go after they cross the sacred boundary of 35 years? They are no longer paired with the top heroes as newer and younger ladies take the center stage.

The grandest example would be Meena. She played Rajinikanth’s daughter in Enkeyo Ketta Kural, 1982. And, a decade later, played Rajini’s wife / girlfriend in Yejamaan, Veera, and Muthu. Meena and Rajini haven’t teamed up to play a couple in two decades. That’s because she’s too “old” to star alongside Rajini now.

Likewise, Srividya, Rajini’s co-star from his debut film, Apoorva Raagangal, 1975, played his mother in Thalapathi, 1991.

Meanwhile Rajini’s ageing hasn’t stopped filmmakers from making him woo Anushka, Sonakshi Sinha, Deepika Padukone and Radhika Apte. Actresses his age have either faded away from the collective memory of the audience, or have joined the ranks of character actors.

The difference between female and male stars

A yet-to-be titled film featuring a male star gets a temporary title that is derived from the hero’s name and his movie-count. This ceremony is followed by the creation of a hashtag (#PSPK25) to make it go viral. Release of posters and teasers for heroes’ birthdays and circulation of common display pictures to trend online are common nowadays. Do these phenomenal happenings echo in the world of female celebrities regularly? No, they don’t.

Male stars get songs that poke at the ribs of the star status they revel in (Song 1, Song 2, Song 3) every now and then, whereas female stars get such songs rarely.

Pawan Kalyan in Katamarayadu.

The typical mass hero introduction song has lyrics that speak about the hero’s valor and lessons on how to take charge of your life, and the heroine introduction song, seen through the hero’s point of view, will have her dancing with kids (or sensually, depending on what kind of role she has in the film). If the scene doesn’t involve the hero, she’s seen savoring the delights of nature.

A nation of male-centric films

A large portion of Tamil and Telugu films starring male superstars is hero-centric. The recently released Balakrishna film, Paisa Vasool, shamelessly plugged in a song that had phrases like, “I am a fan of NBK, I have one naught one fever.” This is sung by the hero himself. It sounds ridiculous to hear a hero saying he’s a fan of himself, in a song. The one naught one fever he sings about is to hint at the fact that Paisa Vasool is his 101st film.

As long as our films are male-centric, we’ll be producing only male stars. What happens to our female stars then? Will they ever come out of the long shadows of the stardom that’s reserved for men? By continuously making films that only generate fans for the male stars, filmmakers are doing a great disservice to the female stars.

Updated Date: Sep 04, 2017 18:18:50 IST