Can Nayanthara’s ‘Aramm’ be a gamechanger for women centric films in Kollywood?

Women actors get to play the main lead in horror flicks but almost never in other genres – can 'Aramm' change the game?
Can Nayanthara’s ‘Aramm’ be a gamechanger for women centric films in Kollywood?
Can Nayanthara’s ‘Aramm’ be a gamechanger for women centric films in Kollywood?
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Nayanthara's Aramm, directed by Gopi Nainar, is expected to release on November 10.

Although the highest paid south Indian woman actor who has laid claim to the title of 'Lady Superstar', Nayanthara is most known for her glamorous appearances in big budget films. The actor made her debut in 2003 with the Malayalam film Manassinakkare and later went on to become a most sought after heroine in Tamil and Telugu, acting opposite the top stars of the industries, including Rajinikanth.

However, Nayanthara doesn't seem to be content to rest on her laurels. Having spent close to 15 years in the industry, she appears to be looking to do films that will give her more substantial roles. Ones that go beyond the song and dance routine.

With Aramm, Nayanthara will have two films centered around her character releasing this year – quite an accomplishment in a male dominant industry. The first film, Dora, was a supernatural thriller that saw the actor investigate a car possessed by a dog's spirit. The film took a good opening and did decent business.

The horror genre, however, has usually rested on women protagonists. Nayanthara herself has starred in Maya, another horror flick, which went on to become a sleeper hit. Other actors like Anushka Shetty, Trisha, Hansika, and Tamannaah have also done films of this genre in which they played pivotal roles. Sai Pallavi's upcoming film Karu, produced by Lyca, is a horror film, too.

Films like Taramani, which had Andrea play the lead role and wasn't of the horror genre, are rare. It's necessary to acknowledge this, whatever be the criticism the film may have attracted. However, Taramani was pitched as a woman's story, with a good amount of realism. Andrea's character wasn't elevated to the status of a saviour, the way "mass" film with male leads are.

Aramm, on the other hand, will see Nayanthara play a District Collector. The teaser of the film shows the actor in a grey, cotton saree with muted make-up, against the backdrop of a people's protest. The trailer, released on Wednesday, builds on what we saw in the teaser – the issue is water scarcity and the exploitation of resources by bottling companies. That would certainly find political resonance with the audience, much like the "social message" films of big male stars. 

Though she has previously played an Intelligence Officer in Irumugan, the film belonged to her co-star Vikram and she wasn't the script's hero. In Puthiya Niyamam, in which she acted with Mammootty, the script revolved around her character, Vasuki, a gangrape victim. But it is Mammootty, playing her husband, who sets the agenda in the film.

Aramm has no big male star to snatch away her place in the spotlight.

Jyothika, who made her comeback with 36 Vayathiniley and Magalir Mattum, has been successful in carrying films of different genres on her shoulders. However, both these films have been home productions.

Aramm, in that sense, is an important film to test waters. For a long time, women in authoritative positions have been portrayed as "arrogant" and requiring to be "tamed". The woman cop who doesn't know to "talk to a man", the lady boss who insults her employees for no good reason, the overly ambitious woman politician and so on. Heroines have seldom held an influential position which wasn't subservient to the hero's or didn't have a negative shade to it.

The big male stars of Kollywood have been churning out film after film which have them in each and every frame, allowing very little space for any of the other characters to develop. It's important for Aramm to succeed commercially if more producers are to be encouraged to make films with women as heroes (and not just horror flicks). It's happened already in Bollywood, with stars like Sridevi, Vidya Balan, Kangana Ranaut, Priyanka Chopra, and Taapsee Pannu.

Can the Lady Superstar do it? Her fans will have us believe that if anyone can, it is Nayan.

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