Deepavali release "Kodi" packs a surprise - a top heroine, Trisha, plays the villain in the film. There are several things to like here.
To begin with, Kollywood heroines rarely get to do films that require them to be anything other than a syrupy "innocent" woman with the mind and behaviour of a three-year-old. The roles of female characters are poorly written and they have little to do in the film other than serve as the hero's love interest.
In "Kodi", however, Trisha's character, Rudhra, is integral to the story. She's an ambitious, ruthless and manipulative politician. But interestingly, Rudhra appears in clothes that are "heroine" approved. Cotton sarees, salwar-kurtas. Meaning, she doesn't sashay about in clothes that Ramya Krishnan had to wear in "Padayappa" to send us loud signals that Neelambari is evil.
Neither does Rudhra change her attire and way of dressing when the revelation about her wickedness is made. In "Pacchakilli Muthucharam", Jyothika appears in the negative role of a woman who seduces married men and blackmails them for money. She wears a telltale nose-ring (Hindi soaps have already taught us that woman with nose-ring = danger) from the beginning and the sarees and kurtas disappear once we know who she really is.
Rudhra doesn't play up her sexuality to get what she wants. She and Kodi (Dhanush) are in a relationship. There are no sequences where she tries to seduce him or lusts after him to tell us how "shameless" and "characterless" she is - like a Sriya Reddy in "Thimiru" or a Sangeetha in "Uyir". In fact, there are moments in the film when sexual innuendos are directed at her and Rudhra is outraged by it.
And though she doesn't play up her sexuality, she isn't projected as old or undesirable the way a Sornakka from "Dhool" or Julie Ganapathi from "Julie Ganapathi" was. Rudhra looks the same throughout the film and this is a pleasant surprise even though Trisha's lip sync is off in places and her performance could have been better.
Now what to do with the female villain once she has wreaked havoc? "Kodi" takes the same route that several films before it have done. Our directors are convinced that it's "cowardly" for the hero to kill the woman or to die in the hands of a woman...unless perhaps she's a raging psychopath like Julie Ganapathi.
In "Padayappa", Rajini throws a spear towards Neelambari, not to kill her but to protect her. Neelambari chooses to kill herself conveniently. This is a bit strange because filmmakers have no qualms at all about showing the hero slapping his wife or girlfriend in a moment of heated "love". It's macho to slap but not to kill.
In "Kodi", Saranya, who plays Dhanush's mother, says that Kodi would not have died because Rudhra stabbed him - he'd have chosen to die so she could get what she wanted. A "Whatay man!" moment of another kind. And since Rudhra must not live because of what she's done, it's the hero's sidekick who tearfully puts an end to her.
Overall though, "Kodi" is definitely progress as far as the female villain is concerned. It doesn't take the usual misogynistic route to establish a woman's capacity for evil and that's refreshing.
The story would have been infinitely more interesting if we'd known a little more about Rudhra, her family, why she's so impassioned, what makes her tick... but that's perhaps asking for too much. After all, even male villains have to be content with "panam" and "padhavi" as their motivations and nothing else. There are very few films like "Thani Oruvan" that have given the villain a story and something to do other than walking around with a bad hairdo and sickle.
"Kodi" isn't a spectacular film but it's interesting to see a character like Rudhra emerging from the usual hee-hee pool of female leads with no ambitions, careers or dreams of their own.