The role of a female protagonist in Indian Commercial Cinema is mostly confined to glamour, stunning looks and very little scope to perform-except for the sentimental scenes! The female lead has almost less or no say in the main story and her only presence comes in the songs right from times immemorial. However, black and white films had great importance to the female lead and Tollywood is of no exception to this. But let it be the external influence or the demand of producers (That would become another debate altogether!) the importance of female lead in films started becoming only commercial. Another important dimension to this is- the female lead should act as per the director’s or the audience’s norms but doesn’t have an individual aura of her own.
But during the early 80s- one gentleman named Mani Ratnam turned the tables completely in this arena. He has influenced a generation of filmmakers such as Gunasekhar and Gautam Menon who realized the importance and tremendous scope of a female lead for film’s success. When Mani Ratnam wrote a script Mouna Raagam which revolves around a girl who is pushed into a forced marriage- and later realizes the importance of marriage system, many eyebrows were raised against him. Instead of choosing one of the top heroines of that era, Mani chose Revathi- the actress who evoked intellect as well as chirpiness in the same frame. Her character Divya has many shades in the film- and she reflected the victim of forced marriage so perfectly and flawlessly than any other actress of that age. The entire credit goes to Mani Ratnam for crafting this marvel surrounding the female lead.
Another adorable aspect of Mani Ratnam’s heroines is the confidence and boldness. A Mani Ratnam heroine doesn’t hesitate to try a cigarette just for fun and the director dared to show it as the introduction scene for Amala in his action flick Gharshana! The film also had another bold female lead Nirosha who stalks the hero instead of the other way around!
But the greatest female lead which came from Mani Ratnam’s amazing mind is none other than Geetha from Nagarjuna starrer Geethanjali. She is an embodiment of positivity, refreshing aura with a tinge of teasing nature. In fact, it is Geetha’s character which is like the lifeline for the film. The punchline “Lechipodama” coming from a female lead that too in late 80s is indeed a shocking phenomenon!
Mani Ratnam’s heroines are extremely balanced, poised and exude a unique beauty which no director could achieve till date. Take Roja (Madhubala) from the film Roja – a village belle who strives throughout to get her kidnapped husband back or the Muslim girl Sairabhanu (Manisha Koirala) in Bombay who fights with her family to marry a Hindu hero! Mani’s heroines have an aura of their own and live in their own sweet world but have an awareness of what’s happening around them!
This master director explored female leads from all backgrounds- let it be rural or urban. He proved he is forever young by having the adorable city girl character Meera (Trisha) in Yuva and Tara (Nitya Menen) in his recent offering Ok Bangaram.
“You are like a Mani Ratnam’s heroine!” would be a greatest compliment for any girl who could associate with the legend’s films!
iQlikmovies wishes Mani ratnam a very Happy Birthday and a creative year ahead!
ALSO READ : Mani Rathnam's Birthday Special Article