The 'intro' scene for the hero in our films is carefully constructed to generate maximum cheers from the audience. The camera pans across his different body parts before finally settling on his eyes and then face. Needless to say, the scene is amplified with a thumping background score. A-list heroines also get dedicated intro scenes but they are far too predictable. Most times, the woman actor is shown swinging her hair around or playing with random children.
There are a few films, however, where the entry of the heroine has taken us by surprise and left a lasting impression. In Alphonse Puthren's Malayalam film Premam, Sai Pallavi has one of the best introduction scenes for a heroine. She is summoned by George (Nivin Pauly) and his friends for a ragging session but the tables are turned when she turns out to be their professor.
In Mansore's Kannada film Nathicharami the heroine Gowri (Sruthi Hariharan) is a young widow who is looking to satisfy her sexual needs. The beginning takes us through her day and we see her checking out a dildo on Amazon — not quite what we're used to seeing on screen.
In Telugu, Anushka Shetty's introduction in Baahubali: The Conclusion is undoubtedly one of the most powerful entry scenes ever — she slashes through a piece of translucent cloth with her sword and we see her beautiful eyes. She then proceeds to vanquish the bandits and it's not just Amarendra who watches with his jaw on the floors, it's also us!
What about Tamil cinema? Amidst the 'loosu ponnu' heroines, there are some films which have given us memorable intro scenes for the lead women actors. Here are some of our favourites from recent releases:
Trisha in 96: By the time Jaanu (Trisha) appears on screen, we are just as eager to see her, as is Ram (Vijay Sethupathi). The two of them are high school sweethearts who meet at a school reunion decades later. Jaanu has to travel from Singapore and her friends are unsure if she will make it. Ram is all nerves and can barely take the tension. Nearly an hour into the film, a white cab arrives at the resort and Trisha, in a simple yellow kurta with blue dupatta and jeans, steps out. Govind Vasantha's hauntingly beautiful 'Kadhale Kadhale' score plays and we're convinced Jaanu was well worth the wait. The movie is available on MX Player.
Aishwarya Rajesh in Vada Chennai: Rajiv Gandhi has just been assassinated and the news is spreading like wildfire. In north Madras, the rioting begins and Anbu (Dhanush), goaded by his mother, steals electronic items from a store. But someone with a wrap around their face tries to grab an item from his hand. Anbu resists and pushes back, only to realise that it is a woman. Aishwarya Rajesh as Padma, in this Vetrimaaran gangster film set mostly in the '80s and '90s, is a delight with her colourful curses and spunk. The scene instantly sets up the chemistry between Anbu and Padma. The movie is available on Disney+Hotstar.
Samantha in Super Deluxe: The heroine's chastity can never be compromised on screen. But Thiagarajan Kumaraja's Super Deluxe opens with a cheating wife played by Samantha. Not only does Vaembu call her former boyfriend over when her husband is out (we first hear their voices before we see them), she also discovers that he's died in bed. It's an unexpectedly comic scene, and Samantha underplays it wonderfully well. The drama is minimal and we're immediately drawn into her situation. The movie is available on Netflix.
Huma Qureshi in Kaala: Set in Mumbai's Dharavi, Pa Ranjith's film had some very interesting women characters. Huma plays Zareena, Kaala's (Rajinikanth) old flame who reappears in his life. Zareena arrives at the airport with a wistful, uncertain expression on her face as the background music underlines the poignancy of the moment for her. She's welcomed by a group of activists, including Kaala's son. We see her speak to the residents of the slum, and then she is in Kaala's home. The meeting between the two is simple but highly effective. There's a powercut and Kaala enters his home and sees Zareena in candlelight. The scene mirrors their past and just as snatches of the 'Kannamma' song begin to play, the power comes back, disrupting the magic of the moment. The movie is available on Amazon Prime Video.
Nayanthara in Imaikaa Nodigal: This serial killer film directed by Ajay Gnanamuthu opens with a man being blackmailed by the criminal. He's receiving instructions over the phone about where to drop off the cash if he's to see his daughter again. Just as the call ends and the man moves, we see CBI officer Anjali (Nayanthara) right behind him. She's been listening in on the call too. Playing a stylish cop, Nayanthara plunges right into the action as she tracks the dangerous killer. The movie is available on Amazon Prime Video.
Ritika Singh in Irudhi Suttru: Sudha Kongara's film about a boxer had Ritika Singh playing the lead while Madhavan plays her grouchy coach. In her intro scene, Ezhil (Ritika) is watching her sister's match as is Prabhu (Madhavan). When the game is declared in the opponent's favour, Ezhil protests, punching the judges and the other men around her. Ezhil is full of rage and this is probably one of the least 'feminine' heroine introduction scenes that we've had in Tamil cinema. The Hindi version of the film is available on YouTube.
Jyotika in Naachiyaar: As a no-nonsense cop, Jyotika in this Bala film is in a completely different avatar. We see Naachiyaar (Jyotika) from the back as she's seated in a police jeep. When the driver rams into a two-wheeler, she looks up from her phone startled. As the driver unleashes a string of abuse on the young family on the two-wheeler, Naachiyaar threatens to punch him and steps out of the car to check if they're all right. She remains business-like and in character as she quickly dismisses them from the scene, and proceeds to the police station. The Telugu version of the film is available on YouTube.