Independent, thinking, opinionated… some of the things you can easily call the women of Gautham Menon’s films over the years, though they exist in a man’s world. Right from Reena Joseph to Nithya Vasudevan, all of them were characters who called the shots in their own lives without being submissive. Though not ‘pathbreaking’ this is a welcome change because let’s face it both our society and our cinema expects otherwise of women. His upcoming film Ennai Nokki Paayum Thotta also seems to be lending a substantial role to Megha Akash who plays the female lead.
Ahead of the release of the Dhanush starrer tomorrow, after several false alarms, here’s a look back at three of the women in his films – Reena Joseph (Minnale), Maya (Kaakha Kaakha) and Jessie (Vinaithaandi Varuvaaya).
Minnale, Gautham’s debut film had Reema Sen play Reena, an independent, working woman in Chennai. Despite the fact that she’s (a little too clueless) about Madhavan and his motives until the middle of the movie, she is seen making decisions for herself without consulting or asking for his opinion. Even in the restaurant scene after she meets Madhavan, we find her ordering food and Madhavan abiding by her decisions. And all of this is done without any sign of authoritativeness. Nothing can influence her or change her mind, unlike conventional characters that exist even in today’s cinema where they ‘have’ to disappear to make the man hypervisible. Her friend Vaasuki played by Raji Iyer is also an interesting addition. She doesn’t budge to any kind of threats and stands by her friend at all circumstances.
Maya (Jyothika) was (is) one of a kind. She changed how women were portrayed on screen. Jyotika was one of the few actors who managed to feature in an ‘intro song’, something that had been reserved only for male actors. She played a maths teacher who did not fear anything and was straightforward about her likes, dislikes and emotions. Though she heartbreakingly disappears in the film, her presence on screen has left a mark.
In a recent interview with Silverscreen, Gautham had spoken about how his women characters are based on people who surround him and how he’s answerable to many of them. “These are the people I know, and this is the only way I know to write. These are the women I’ve known and wanted to know. My mum, sisters, girls in school and college… they influence the women I write; they ensure I can handle women only in a particular manner,” said Gautham, “Remember ‘Thoodhu Varuma’ in Kaakha Kaakha? There’s this scene where I ended up doing a low-angle shot with Ramya Krishnan sitting on a chair. The producer insisted and I did not have much control, that being my second film. When my mother watched the film, she asked me why I had to do something like that. That question still stays in my head. I am answerable to some women in my life who think I have to be a certain way,” he says. Not all directors would admit to something like this.
Vinnai Thandi Varuvaya
As much as Karthik (Simbu) won the hearts of audiences, Jessie (Trisha) did too (some argue even more, and I wouldn’t disagree). Until the end she was stubborn about her decision and did not change herself.
Jessie was the quintessential confused woman and conflicted daughter. But there was more to her than loyalties to her love and her family. When she could call off her wedding amidst a large group of people, if she wanted to, she could’ve chosen to walk away with Karthik when he came back for her in the middle of the night. It could be labelled selfish, but I believe a woman should be allowed to make her own decisions, on screen, like how men do, even if it comes in the way of a happy ending. And Jessie is a great example of this.