Feminist critic Rahini David, director CS Amudhan, and actors Nithya Menen, Khushbu and Iswarya speak to TNM about the ‘loosu ponnu’ trope.

The loosu ponnu in Tamil cinema and why she should retire
Delve Kollywood Sunday, September 30, 2018 - 15:38

Tamil cinema is going through interesting times. On the one hand, we have films with women as solo leads, some of them going on to become superhits. But on the other hand, the average mainstream Tamil film has relegated the heroine’s role to that of a ‘loosu ponnu’. So common is this trope that it even figured in CS Amudhan’s Tamizh Padam 2, a film that parodies Tamil cinema.

A ‘loosu ponnu’ is a heroine who is very angelic and innocent, needs constant rescuing and cannot do the simplest things in life. The attributes vary from film to film – from having her help visually impaired people cross the road to not knowing how to cross at all, from eating ice-cream to dancing in the rain, and speaking with a lot of unnecessary gestures.

The ‘loosu ponnu’ became increasingly popular in the ‘90s, as the masculinity of the hero became more overblown than ever before. However, mainstream heroines are now speaking up about this trope. Actor Jyothika appealed to directors to give women “intelligent” roles before the release of Magalir Mattum. Samantha recently spoke at the press meet for U Turn about how she did not have to dumb down for the film. However, not all heroines have the choice to not do such roles – in a male-dominated industry where scripts are written for heroes and the heroine disappears after a few romance scenes and songs, how choosy can women actors get?

TNM spoke to feminist critic Rahini David, who has been writing about the ‘loosu ponnu’ trope for years now, and to people from the Tamil film industry to understand the fascination for the guileless heroine character. In the video, director CS Amudhan, actors Nithya Menen, Khushbu, and Iswarya Menon share their thoughts on the emergence of the ‘loosu ponnu’ and what can be done to change how heroines are represented in mainstream cinema today. Watch:


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