Can’t a woman be the hero of her own crusade?

By me. Published on June 16, 2017, The Hindu Thread.

Much of film criticism about roles written for women in Tamil films revolves around the weakness of their characters and their purpose in the narrative. While this is warranted in most cases, it is unfair to the few strong characters who are meted out greater injustice. Automatically dismissing heroines in Tamil cinema as token adornment is to be blind to the rise of a new crop of brave women who have a crusade of their own.

In this essay, I write about Malarvizhi of Bairavaa (2017), Kadambari of Naanum Rowdy Thaan (2015), Leela of Acham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada (2016) and other female protagonists and their crusades.

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Can’t a woman be the hero of her own crusade?

Beyond shaming her into submission — the female antagonist narrative

By me. Published on March 29, 2017, The Hindu Thread.

When I pitched this essay about female antagonists, my editor replied with, “Great, lead with the unrepentant Neelambari!” Eighteen years on, Neelambari of Padayappa (1999) appears to be the most remembered ‘villi’ (colloquial for villainess) in Tamil cinema. With good reason. Neelambari is classic Tamil film villi — a stock character and a shrew — angry, rich, ‘modern’ (typically meaning westernised), impulsive, single/separated, hen-pecking, having an unreasonable hatred for a man or men in general.

And then something changed. Rudra of Kodi, Vasundhara of Adhe Kangal and Rajalakshmi of Achamindri came along and broke the mould. I write about a film’s central conflict not revolving around the gender of the antagonist, but her ambition, for the Hindu Thread here.

Beyond shaming her into submission — the female antagonist narrative

Why do angry young Tamil heroes love to cross-dress so much?

By me. Published on February 28, 2017, The Ladies Finger

This line of thought — an actor’s credentials depending on his ability to play a woman — is a Tamil film staple, a residue of Tamil cinema’s history in stage-drama. Since then, even the most riotous of heroes have worn female clothing and acted as women. What role does this play in their careers?

More pertinently, what role does it play in our understanding of gender and sexuality? I write for The Ladies Finger here.

Why do angry young Tamil heroes love to cross-dress so much?

Beyond shaming her into submission — the female antagonist narrative

When I pitched this essay about female antagonists, my editor replied with, “Great, lead with the unrepentant Neelambari!” Eighteen years on, Neelambari of Padayappa (1999) appears to be the most remembered ‘villi’ (colloquial for villainess) in Tamil cinema. With good reason. Neelambari is classic Tamil film villi — a stock character and a shrew — angry, rich, ‘modern’ (typically meaning westernised), impulsive, single/separated, hen-pecking, having an unreasonable hatred for a man or men in general.

And then something changed. Rudra of Kodi, Vasundhara of Adhe Kangal and Rajalakshmi of Achamindri came along and broke the mould. I write about a film’s central conflict not revolving around the gender of the antagonist, but her ambition, for the Hindu Thread here.

Beyond shaming her into submission — the female antagonist narrative