For many heroes, the heroine is simply a overgrown child old enough to legitimately excite him sexually.

Cute equals childish When will the Tamil cinema heroine grow up and become an adult
Blog Cinema Saturday, October 08, 2016 - 18:36

The more new age Tamil films I watch, the more I wonder if Tamil filmmakers ever have conversations with adult women in their lives. They seem to be under the impression that women in Tamil Nadu are all running around with balloons in their hands, pulling the cheeks of random children, or helping the disabled cross the road every moment of their lives. 

It doesn't matter what a heroine does for a living – she could be a college student, an IT professional, a doctor or a part-time unicorn. If she's to play the female lead, she has to be introduced to the audience doing at least one of these things. It’s the only way directors seem to know to loudly signal to the audience that she is indeed the heroine. Lest we wonder why this character keeps appearing in the film, though she has nothing to do.

These things apparently make women "innocent", the one virtue that is absolutely essential for the Tamil film heroine. She may wear skimpy clothes and dance in the rain with the hero but it's necessary for her to cuddle a stuffed toy when she sleeps at night. A puppy is an acceptable substitute. 

The heroine must also gesture a lot more than a normal person. I don't quite know why this is "cute" but it apparently is. The "innocent" woman must fling her hands about, expressing her extreme enthusiasm for all kinds of things, from beach sundal to the SARS virus. The hero finds all the 'air swimming' endearing and falls in love with her just a bit more. 

Along with the hands, the heroine must also make exaggerated expressions with her lips because that's in the category of cute too. I'm yet to meet a mentally sound woman who talks in the same way as the average Tamil heroine.

And when did stupidity become attractive? The more "makku" the heroine is, the more adorable she appears to the hero. Is a woman with a decent IQ such a threat?

For the hero, the heroine is simply an overgrown child old enough to legitimately excite him sexually. The more helpless she is in doing the most ordinary, mundane things, the more she appeals to him. While he's all about the ability to do, she's all all about the inability. 

The few films that have a "different" heroine – who says "adult" things like "I want to make love to you" – are better than the average with their alarmingly idiotic female leads, but even here, the female character is written with such predictability and lack of imagination. She invariably walks around in classy, cotton sarees as opposed to "modern" clothes. She still gesticulates too much but the dialogue is minimal. She wears lots of kajal. Her world is still defined by what the hero does and what he likes. She is the non-giggly sort because he is the brooding type and not the usual flamboyant kind. It's still all about the man.

Of course, films don't always have to be realistic. They can be a form of escapism. They don't have to show us grimy faces all the time. But is it too much to ask that once in a while, I see a woman on screen to whom I can relate at least a wee bit? A heroine who doesn't make me cringe with her attempt at playing "cute" by reducing herself to the level of a five-year-old? Tamil films were not always this regressive in the portrayal of the heroine. Actors like Suhaasini, Nadhiya, Geetha, Radikaa and Revathy have done substantial roles even if these might not have been entirely free of patriarchal tinges. At least, we knew something about the female characters and what they did other than their "cuteness" levels. 

Even though Tamil cinema is going through exciting times, exploring new themes and techniques, it's disappointing to see the heroine disappearing as this evolution happens. Once in a while, there's a film like "Joker" where the female lead is integral to the story but most times, she is simply there to serve as eye candy. Why can't we see an adult woman with decent comprehension and coordination skills more often on the big screen?

Or is a real woman too frightening a prospect to ever make the cut?

Note: The views expressed here are the personal opinions of the author.





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