February 23 2020
These women mean business
06 September 2018

In male-dominated Kollywood, female stars are slowly moving to a position of getting an opening of their own

Kollywood has never seen anything like this before. Last weekend, at the Chennai box-office, Nayanthara’s Imaikkaa Nodigal replaced her Kolamavu Kokila as the top film as the latter slipped to number two after ruling the roost for two continuous weeks. Both these films featured in the top ten movies in multiplexes across India The ‘Lady Superstar’, as she is known in Kollywood, has delivered back to back hits, and is currently the highest paid actress in the south, rumoured to be getting a pay packet of ₹4 to 5 crore for a film.

Is Kollywood being taken over by women-centric films? Abirami Ramanathan, leading distributor and exhibitor who was largely responsible for bailing out Imaikkaa Nodigal out of its financial mess on its release day, feels, “The Nayanthara craze among the youth and family audiences got it a big opening. The second and third days were bigger and the film also survived the crucial Monday test and is a hit,” says Ramanathan. As Rakesh Gowthaman of Chrompet’s Vettri Theatre says, “Nayanthara is ruling the box-office. Her Kolamavu Kokila has already netted a whopping ₹30.50 lakhs and will feature prominently in our theatre’s year-end top ten, and Imaikkaa Nodigal also looks promising.”

Ajay Gnanamuthu, the director of Imaikkaa Nodigal, says Nayanthara was not the first choice to play the CBI officer; it was actually written for a male superstar. But later, changes were made to the script and the filmmaker took a decision to cast a lady in the pivotal lead character, which worked to the advantage of the film.

Nayanthara has opened the floodgates for commercial female centric films. The other top leading lady, Samantha Akkineni, is coming out with U-Turn for the Vinayaga Chathurthi festival on September 13. Samantha’s U-Turn is pitched against Sivakarthikeyan’s Seema Raja, something that would not have happened a few months back. Samantha, who is aggressively promoting the film, says, “Nayan is doing a phenomenal job in opening up commercial cinema’s domains. I see her as as an agent of change who will open doors for other female actors to take up challenging roles. If a female actor’s solo film turns a hit, it’s good for all other women actors too.” The trade buzz is that the film has been sold in all areas in the State at high prices, much before its release.

Meanwhile, more women-oriented flicks are due to arrive. Those who saw the rushes of the 96 say that the film hinges on Trisha’s character. Aishwarya Rajesh is the lead in Kanaa, a film on the rise of a woman cricketer. Kajal Aggarwal is also doing a female-oriented film, Paris Paris, the remake of Kangana Ranaut’s Queen. And then, there is Jyothika’s Kaatrin Mozhi, the remake of Vidya Balan’s Tumhari Sulu.

Some big names in south Indian cinema are also negotiating to play the ‘dream role’ of the iconic leader Jayalalithaa in one of the many bio-pics based on her life and times. Feels Abirami Ramanathan, “Women oriented films within the commercial format have found acceptance among the youth and lady audiences who make the difference between a hit and a flop.” The rise of the multiplexes in Tamil Nadu has brought in a new breed of female audiences; a similar trend is taking place at the grassroot level, which has increased viewership for women centric films within the commercial format.

Though Tamil cinema is still male dominated, female stars like Nayanthara, Samantha and Keerthy Suresh are pushing the envelope as they are now in a position to get an opening on their own. The male stars, especially the middle level heroes, are struggling to get an opening. Distributors say that it is easier to sell a top female-oriented star film than a middle level hero film. In a few years, the gap between male and female commercial stars at the box-office will surely narrow down further.



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