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Faces of Women activism in Tamil cinema

IndiaGlitz [Saturday, March 08, 2014]

International Women's day is celebrated to mark the first success of struggle of French women laborers for wages and treatment as equal to men.   This  is the day to celebrate womanhood, stress the necessity of equality

Cinema industry is one industry that treats women equal on certain grounds. But still the industry is predominantly male dominated and there are a few occasions in which women were allowed to overdo their male counterparts. On this day we wish to recall a few remarkable women in the Tinsel town who stood for women's rights and gender equality onscreen and off screen.

Kodumudi Balambal Sundrambal gave life to ancient Tamil poet Avvayar in Tamil silver screen. She may not have acted in many women centric roles and spoken lengthy dialogues about equality. Neither the period she lived in was favorable for such intentions. But Sundarambal lived her life without compromising her rights. Think of a girl opting for her Mother's name (Balambal ) as her initials during 1920s. Sundarmbal did that  perhaps not as a delibrate measure of feminism but for the fact that she was brought up by her mother and not her father who died when she was very young

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On the professional side, Sundarambal is credited with many records that women rights activists can be feel proud of. She was the first artiste to receive Rs.1 lakh, a salary that was not offered  even to top male actors on those days. She is also the first woman artiste to act in a male's role in the film Nandanar Sundarambal incurred bashes from the society on two counts; for acting as a male and for acting as s dalit. But the actress never cared about them and remained honest to her profession


Paluvayi Bhanumathi Ramakrishna stepped into cinema in 1935 and ruled the roost during the hey days of male superstars like M.G.Ramachandran and Sivaji Ganesan. She was known for her bravery in taking part in stunt sequences and she has never ventured into things that were typically associated with heroines. Film historians recall her courage to openly argue with MGR and top heroes of his ilk during the shooting sessions.

She shined not only as a heroine and later as a character artiste but also a multi talented professional. She ventured into writing, directing and producing films and was successful in all the departments and she is  one of the earliest persons to do so in the industry.


Today's Chief Minister of Tamilnadu entered the film industry at the age of 16. She was a top ranking student before that. She ruled the industry and holds the record of acting in maximum number of films with M.G.R She has also acted in many films with Sivaji Ganesan. Muthuraman, Jaishankar and Ravichandran.

Whatever may be the status of the hero she acts with, Jayalalitha has never compromised on her role and never has she confined herself as the hero's arm candy.

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Her entry and achievements in politics deserve long chapters in the political history of Tamilnadu. As the leader of the state she has introduced many schemes to uplift the women belonging to all sections and she is always remembered as an inspiration by many women.


Saritha can be credited with doing many women centric roles, in the history of Tamil cinema . She is best remembered for her roles n Thanneer Thanneer. Achamillai Achamillai, Mouna Geethangal etc. She has never appeared in skimpy clothes. It was at the time when glamour was gaining importance in Tamil, Saritha ruled the industry with performing abilities and her skill to carry strong roles with ease. She was one of the top heroines until the end of 1980s.

After a long gap in acting, she made a comeback in a titular role in the film Julie Ganapathy which was directed by Balu Mahendra. This is a rare accomplishment for a woman in cine industry. Her performance as one of the central characters of the film was highly appreciated.

Director Balu Mahednra who died recently had expressed regret in an interview, for Saritha not getting a National award for her peorformance in Julie Ganapathy.


Revathy is another heroine who entered in early 1980's and remained a top heroine till the later half of 1990's   without depending on the glamour aspect. She is not only known for her performance but also for her characters udnertaken by her,  that had feminist undertones. Pudhumaipen, one of her earliest films showcased her as the  real Pudhumaipen envisaged by National poet Subramaniya Bharathi.

In the second half of her heroine career she acted in many women centric films like Marupadiyum and Priyanaka. In Magarlir Mattum that released in 1994, she acted as a feminist who shots back at every form of exploitation against women.

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Revathy is not only a reputed actress but also an acclaimed director who has directed a few Bollywood films


Suhasini is again a heroine of 1980's who has emerged today as a multi talented professional. She has acted in women centric roles in films like director K.Balachander's Manadhil Urudhi Vendum. Even in normal commercial flicks she has never resorted to glamour and has always said a big no to hero worshipping.

Once she shared in an interview on how she had to struggle to avoid a scene in which she had to fall on the feet of a co-actor who acted as her husband.

Suhasini is also a film-maker and a dialogue writer. The dialogues she wrote for the Political film Iruvar received thunderous appreciation.

Suhasini is also known for her social consciousness. She was the first person from the Tinsel world to take part in the protest condemning the Delhi gang-rape incident in 2012.

Suhasini is the daughter of actor Charu Hassan who is the brother of Ulaganayagan Kamalhassan. She is also the wife of ace director Mani Ratnam. But these have to be mentioned here only for the sake of records and Suhasini has carved a niche for herself that does not depend on the male celebrities in her family.

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Rohini may not be a very popular heroine but one of the renowned actresses of her times. Rohini's performance in films like Magalir Mattum, Marupadiyum and many other films are still remembered by the audience. She is considered as a thinking actress with social consciousness. She is known as an activist who has taken part in many campaigns for women and the underprivileged. She is also a renowned poet cum dialogue writer.


Thamarai is the only woman lyricist in Tamil cinema who has sustained more than a decade now. She has been associated with many prominent directors and known for penning lyrics that aptly

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