As the feisty Rama Lakshmi, Samantha proves that she isn’t going to disappear or be relegated to ‘sister’ roles anytime soon.

Marriage no bar With Rangasthalam Samantha moves past heroines stumbling block
Flix Tollywood Wednesday, April 04, 2018 - 14:33

When Samantha and Naga Chaitanya announced their decision to get married last year, Samantha said that film offers suddenly began to dry up. Among the top ranked heroines in the Telugu and Tamil film industries today, Samantha made it clear that she wasn’t calling it quits only because she’d made an important decision in her personal life.

With Rangasthalam, the actor has sent out a strong message that not only is she here to stay, she isn’t going to be relegated to the ‘sister’ and ‘mother’ roles anytime soon. Directed by Sukumar, the Telugu film, which is set in the ‘80s and stars Ram Charan and Samantha in lead roles, has gone on to become a blockbuster. The long-held assumption that the audience cannot accept a married woman playing another man's heroine on screen has been rubbished, with Samantha's character winning favour with viewers.

Unlike most mainstream Telugu films which barely have a role for the heroine, Samantha in Rangasthalam plays a feisty Rama Lakshmi who doesn’t disappear after a song and dance routine. One can ask why our filmmakers continue to cast fair-skinned women with tan make-up in such roles, instead of selecting someone who looks the part – but that’s a debate for another day.

When Rama Lakshmi spots Chitti Babu (Ram Charan) ogling her as she works in the fields, she has no qualms about taking off her half-saree and asking him what he’s looking at. The scene description might sound sleazy but the effect of it is not – Samantha’s stride and confident body language ensure that she’s in control of what’s happening. An actor who is mostly known for playing “glamorous” roles (a pity, considering she has proved that she can perform with films like Eega), Samantha has more to do in Rangasthalam than make cutesy faces. The scene when she hands a bigger bottle of poison to her father, who threatens to commit suicide if she walks out of her wedding, is among the best moments in the film.

Interestingly, Rangasthalam was launched by Chiranjeevi, veteran actor and Ram Charan’s father, in February 2017, soon after Samantha and Naga Chaitanya got engaged the previous month. Usually, a woman actor’s commitment to marriage would sound the death knell for her career. This is especially true in the south Indian film industries where very few women actors since the ‘80s have continued to act in lead roles after marriage, unlike a Savitri or KR Vijaya. You can count the names like Rima Kallingal, Asha Sharath and Amala Paul (who later divorced) on your fingers.

Most times, heroines decide to get married at the fag end of their career or quit if they happen to be at their peak. A few like Jyothika and Manju Warrier have since made successful comebacks after a long break.

None of Samantha’s contemporaries and competitors in the Tamil and Telugu industries like Anushka Shetty, Nayanthara, Rakul Preet Singh, Kajal Aggarwal, Regina Cassandra, Nithya Menen and Tamannaah are married. Shriya Saran, who isn’t quite in the same league as Samantha any more, is the only exception. Most male actors who play the lead, on the other hand, are married and this isn’t surprising, considering that their marital status has never had an impact on film offers or salary.

Things have changed in Bollywood where stars like Aishwarya Rai, Kareena Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Radhika Apte and others have not let their marital status dictate their hold over the box office. With Rangasthalam and a host of upcoming films, Samantha may well establish the tradition in the south, too.

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