The 3 female Rajinikanths of Indian cinemaSharika Nair
Q: Why was Mark Zuckerberg hospitalised?
A: Because Rajinikanth poked him on Facebook!
The internet is a treasure trove of Rajinikanth jokes. But when it comes to the Tamil superstar, fondly nicknamed Thalaiva (chief), real life is just as ‘larger-than-life’ as his onscreen persona. Within an hour of its release, the trailer of Rajinikanth’s upcoming movie Kabali notched up more than 1 million views on YouTube. The video is currently trending on social media with around 20 millions views.
These women have shouldered the burden of the box office in film industries dominated by male superstars. Their names in the movie credits have ensured long queues in front of theatres, cheers from the audience and set the cash registers on fire. In an unexplainable paradox, the largely male chauvinistic Indian society has seen legions of fans both male and female, which were in awe of these actors.
Vijayashanthi – the Good Cop and the Bad Cop
Vijayashanthi has acted in over 180 movies in various languages, mostly Telugu, along with Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, and Hindi. In her heyday in the 1990s, she was called ‘The Lady Superstar’ and ‘Lady Amitabh’ of South Indian cinema and could ensure the success of a movie single-handedly. It was blockbuster movie Karthavyam released in 1990 that catapulted her to the big league. Her performance as a tough cop (modelled after supercop Kiran Bedi) earned her the National Award as well as an Andhra Pradesh State award for best actress. C Indhumathi was a 10-year-old girl when she watched ‘Vyjayathi IPS’ (The Tamil version of the same movie). The young girl was so impressed by the heroine who could beat up all the bad guys that it stayed in her heart. Today she is an IAS officer. Vyjayanthi IPS held the record of longest running movie at Vetri theatre in Chennai, which was only broken by Baahubali in August 2015.
Malashri – tough women finish first
Sri Durga, better known by her screen name Malashri, is an South Indian film actress. A big name in Sandalwood, or the Kannada movie industry, she has also done several Telugu and Tamil films. Nicknamed ‘action queen of Sandalwood’, Malashri’s tough woman roles have a huge fan following. While most of her contemporaries are seen in the run-of-the-mill romantic and family roles, Malashri has taken up roles like an Election Commissioner and a mafia don.
Fearless Nadia – the tigress with the whip
Mary Ann Evans, remembered for posterity as Fearless Nadia, was an actress and stuntwoman from the black and white era. Her role of the masked, cloaked adventurer in Hunterwali (Woman with a whip) which was released in 1935, was one of the earliest female-oriented Indian films. The daughter of a Scotsman, who was a volunteer in the British Army, she moved to Bombay with her parents when she was five years old. She later lived in Peshawar (now in Pakistan) and learned horseback riding, hunting, fishing, and shooting there. When she returned to Bombay, she landed the plum role of Hunterwali. The movie was a big hit and inspired several clones. Nadia is remembered as a cult icon who paved the way for strong female characters in later day movies.
Though this topic might seem light hearted, the fact remains that role models do matter. For every little girl, who is told she is too weak, for every girl who is teased for being a ‘tomboy’ and asked to stop climbing trees or asked to grow her hair long, for each little girl who is told she CANNOT, strong role models help tell her that she CAN.