The Changing Roles and Representation of Women in Contemporary Cinema
Until a few years back no one would expect movies with a female lead to set the cash register at the box office. Many regional movies are primarily considered to be driven by male dominance and authority. No matter what the story is, it was mandatory to have a stunning hero with good market value to make the film a success. All the punchlines and compelling background scores were reserved for these men. If you have seen Tamil movie Kolamavu Kokila, you would be convinced that these background scores suit well enough for the leading actress as well. Nayantara as Kokila had some amazing goosebump scenes with terrific background scores.
There has been a redefinition of female-led films over the past few years. The change is more evident in the Malayalam movie industry. We saw some talented actresses taking the success of the film on their shoulders. June (2019, Malayalam) and Helen (2019, Malayalam) are examples for that.
What I like about these movies is that unlike other women-oriented movies, they are not about women struggling for a cause. These movies set the tone of a typical entertainer and succeed in normalizing women as protagonists who can carry the entire movie on their shoulders.
Rajisha Vijayan was struggling to establish herself in the industry before the release of her movie June. She went months without a movie. Her savage comeback in June is her way to shut the haters. With the success of June, she showed us that she is back in the game.
Even Anna Ben as Helen is irreplaceable. We were eagerly waiting for her next film since she impressed us in Kumbalangi Night.
The existence of women with opinion is a difficult concept for some people to digest. Every time a female actor expresses her honest opinion, she is asked to shut up, do her work and leave. Once an angry mob was so close to ripping off the screen showing Parvathy Thiruvoth’s movie (just because she had an opinion). the outstanding actress shut them all up and made them clap and cheer for her character, Pallavi in Uyare (2019, Malayalam). Uyare is a sharp take on toxic relationships. The film reminds us that we need to step out as early as possible from a relationship that takes away our inner peace of mind.
The exciting thing about Uyare is that it is a female-oriented movie penned by two male writers Bobby and Sanjay. Their scripts and stories have always encouraged women to break the chain of stereotypes.
All these years we have seen women on the screen through a man’s perspective; drawbacks of having a man-led crew behind the camera! Thanks to the bunch of talented female directors and writers like Anjali Menon, Zoya Akhtar, and Nandita Das, who have made their own space and identity in the industry. They have written and portrayed women (as well as men) as harbingers of change, the change that shatters the glass ceiling of prevailing societal norms.
Women on screen were shown through patriarchal lenses all these years. Today’s cinema shows women who are liberated and in charge of their own lives, who are ready to break the patriarchal consciousness and are as capable to become the lead of the film.
A huge shoutout to all those inspiring women who have contributed to the visible change, big or small, in the representation of women in Indian cinema.
Happy Women’s Day!!!
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