Women in Mani Ratnam’s movies

Sangs’ post was what made me write this post. She has written that most of Mani Ratnam’s heroines are epitomes of innocence. But, I don’t think so.

Taking their own decisions, choosing how their life has to be, speaking their mind out and at times, being real stubborn – to me, these are what characterize the women in Mani Ratnam’s movies. Of course, some of their decisions do get influenced by their parents or others around them. But that, definitely, doesn’t make them innocent.

Let me start with Mouna Raagam. The heroine in this movie has no traces of innocence whatsoever! Divya of Mouna Raagam till date remains one of the well-portrayed women in Mani Ratnam’s movies. She does what she wants to. She remains very stubborn in complete contrast to her a-bit-too-sweet husband.

Coming to Roja, though Rishi might have said, ‘nee vaaya tharandha unnoda ignorance veLiya vandhuDum’, she is, like how Dr. Chandramurthy says in the scene where Rishi introduces her to him, ‘bayam, accham idhellaam illadha poNNu’. That scene might have shown the innocent side of her when she tells Dr. Chandramurthy whatever her husband had told her. But see the way she doesn’t even let her husband near her till he clarifies that there was no mistake on his part or when she boldly asks Nasser if his reaction would have been the same had it been a minister’s husband who had been taken as hostage instead of her husband.

In Bombay, where the heroine leaves behind her family and home and goes to an unknown place to marry the guy she loves, where is innocence in the girl who realizes her husband is lying when he pretends to read out his father’s letter or when she goes ahead and tells her full name to their house owner when her husband doesn’t and tries to conceal the fact that she is a Muslim? It’s only her insecurity that later makes her ask her father-in-law not to separate her husband from her.

In Iruvar, though Pushpa (Aishwarya Rai) is shown as the usual sweet village girl, still she isn’t shown to be too innocent. It is Maragadham (Revathy) who is shown as the innocent girl in this movie. In complete contrast to her is Kalpana (Aishwarya Rai) – wanting to marry a man who is much older than her and breaking from him when she realizes that’s not going to happen. Tabu, the other lady in the movie, boldly asks Prakash Raj what is the name that is going to be given to his relationship with her.

Chithra (Revathy) of Anjali, Shakti (Shalini) of Alaipayuthey, Anjali (Amala) of Agni Nakshatram, Sujata (Aishwarya Rai) of Guru, Sashi (Meera Jasmine) of Aayitha Ezhuthu, Rasathi (Heera) of Thiruda Thiruda and, I would say, even Subbulakshmi (Shobhana) of Thalapathy aren’t exceptions to this either. Doesn’t Subbulakshmi know what kind of a person Surya is before she falls in love with him? She lets go of her love only for her father.

Apart from all those mentioned above, let’s not forget that Manisha Koirala played the role of a terrorist in Dil Se!

Coming to think of it, on a lighter note, not even kids in Mani Ratnam’s movies are innocent, Amudha (Keerthana) of Kannathil Muthamittal being the best example to prove that both kids as well as females in his movies are not innocent. 😉 What say, people? 🙂

It has been a long time since I had some discussion on Mani Ratnam’s movies here! Waiting to know your views on this topic! 🙂

18 thoughts on “Women in Mani Ratnam’s movies

  1. Vijay Kumar

    Looks like the other blogger has generalized based on a single character. Your post should go a long way in correcting that. 🙂
    I would say that Amala in Agninatchathram was the most innocent of his heroines – almost child like. The others are devoted, tenacious, sincere but seldom innocent.
    Maybe the other blogger laments the lack of grey shades in Mani’s women.

  2. Vivek

    I would agree to some extent, but reading the article for which ur reply was the above article, I think she is right in some way. I wud say all the girls in his Manirathnam’s movies are mischevious, romantic and adventurous, but deeply conservative. Comparing to their husbands or boyfriends in the movies, they do come across as demure and shy. Most of the roles of these women are selfless and somewat devoted (if i can use that word) to their respective spouses. As individual characters they may have been well defined, but when married or with their boyfriends, they undergo a complete change.
    The only different case wud be Trisha in Ayutha Ezhuthu, but her role was too small to create an impact.
    My final point wud be the characterization cud be much more stronger and assertive than they are now..

  3. Sathej

    //Coming to think of it, on a lighter note, not even kids in Mani Ratnam’s movies are innocent, Amudha (Keerthana) of Kannathil Muthamittal being the best example to prove that both kids as well as females in his movies are not innocent. What say, people?//

    One amongst the very few movies I’ve seen – saw it in parts sometime back..I don’t get why that character should be viewed as not being innocent. To me, it was. Maybe, the notion of ‘innocence’ is differently perceived by different people.


  4. sangs

    A well-written post . Perhaps,lets say,we both are looking at two different sides of the coin.What appears as boldness to you appears to me as being really naive.Eloping to marry a man you barely know is naive.Who knows whether that guy is just taking you for a ride ? Lucky for her it was Arvindsami 😉 .Falling in love with a rowdy is also ,to me,barely something a mature girl would do.In Roja,trying to free your man all by yourself from terrorists in a land where you dont know the language,again,not my idea of maturity.

    But I’ve to agree on Revathi in Mouna raagam and all the female characters in Aayutha Ezhuthu.They were strong individuals in their own way.
    Again,this debate could go on and on ‘cos Mani has portrayed so many different women in his movies.

    Your post has made me see the characters in a very different way,but !!

  5. Pri

    In the film Geetanjali
    The heroine geetanjali just potrays
    must be lived, loved and enjoyed at every moment ..

  6. Aparna

    Phew! This made great reading! Though i would agree a bit more with sangs. Yes women in movies are 8 out of 10 times miss goody 2 shoes! but your view point is refreshing.. These ladies are subtly bold/ brash and all that. However the subtlety is barely noticeable. Unless someone points it out.. You wouldn’t really notice.

  7. puranjoy

    gullible, innocent, shy, conservative, introvert–subtle differences in the characters.
    ok, although I am most tempted to, I am NOT getting into this debate.

  8. Sreekrishnan

    I would say, a Drama effect arises out of a char when the Innocence is captured in a subtle way. Take any girl you see around, not every face they show to the people around them are Innocent, but a Drama arises when the female char’s Innocence is built on.

    “Ariyamai thaaningey Paerinbam anbey” [If you have to go to the first meaning from vairamuthu]

    Maniratnam is clever enough to show both the parts of the feminine attitude. The innocence builds the drama and the attitude forms the other part. That is the reason why Mani’s heroines always looks complete… Always !

    So, in My opinion – Mani Shows both the sides of the char, where in the innocence is impressive to guys and attitude is impressive to the girls !!

    Now, others [like heroines in Vijay movies] are completely made dumb [not innocent]. This is to make sure the hero looks better – which actually irritates….

    Sangs: //Falling in love with a rowdy is also ,to me,barely something a mature girl would do//

    Very frankly you are super wrong ! .. I know from my college experiences that this is wrong for sure. The rowdyism and the arrogance is sometimes attractive just like innocence and dumbness is attractive !

  9. usha

    Hi aparna..read your article on the women in maniratnam movies..to a little extent it is true..but the women character in his movies do not stand apart..take for example a balachander’s movie ..you will remember the movie for that women character..mani ratnam doesn’t show women in full strength..they are bold but you don’t get to see them in full strength..and some how they loose their identity once they get married..this is my observation …

  10. naran

    hai aparna-ji, u forget to mention few actress from mani sir movie which are not innocent but very confident and independent .example like banupriya(dhalapathi)…there is one scene where she went to mamooty house and tell him about some of his men tried to misbehave wit her.so she asked mamooty to stop giving money to her and her daughter.she will said she can live alone wit her daughter in some other place without anyone help.nanditha dhass is another example which was a leader for ltte group in KM movie.she still stay at sri lanka even after her husband past away. both is example showing how mani sir giving important to heroin roles in his movie…;-)

  11. Aparna

    It’s been such a long time. I don’t know how many of you’ll check the replies now…Anyway, let me reply.

    Vijay Kumar,
    After reading all the comments here, I have to agree that each of us look at the characters from different perspectives. Btw, I feel Sharanya in Nayagan is the most innocent of all.

    A comment without smileys? Am surprised 😛

    Welcome to my blog! Aren’t the characters mentioned by Naren in his comment strong and assertive?

    Yup perception varies. Anyway I have written about the character in my next post.

    Thank you. I also now agree that we both were looking at the characters from different perspectives. 🙂

    >Eloping to marry a man you barely know is naive. Falling in love with a rowdy is also ,to me,barely something a mature girl would do
    I don’t agree. The characters seem to be fully aware of what can happen to them if the man cheats them. If you see the scene where Manisha reaches Bombay, you will see the doubt in her eyes as she waits for Arvind Samy in the station. Even though Meera Jasmine marries a rowdy, she doesn’t even hesitate to go for abortion when she realizes that her husband is not going to change.

    Anyway, I have to thank you for writing that post since that made me write on Mani’s movies after a long time 🙂

  12. Aparna

    Welcome to my blog! Yes

    Thank you 🙂 You have noticed now 😉 It’s not just the ladies but most of the characters in Mani Ratnam’s movies are portrayed in a subtle way

    Your comment actually made me want to write a post on all those subtly different characteristics. I may write it sometime or I may not

    Nicely put comment!

    Usha aunty,
    Glad to see a comment from you 🙂 Agreed that women in KB’s movies are more powerful but I am not a big fan of most of his characters. If you see, Mani Ratnam doesn’t show any character in full strength. There is a subtlety in the portrayal of all his characters.

    >some how they loose their identity once they get married
    Though I don’t fully agree with this, still in reality, don’t most of the girls do really loose their identity after their marriage?

    Welcome to my blog! Yes both are good examples! 🙂 I never even thought about these two characters when writing this post!

  13. Archana

    Agreed. Raagini of Raavan – not even the scene where she jumps, but the time she rushes down from the train back to Beera. I have a no-yes for the movie, but she is certainly not innocent. Even kids in Anjali were not innocent. Brats. Loved the post.

  14. Archana B A

    Being innocent is considered as a crime in todays’ world. Leave alone innocence in movies; Mass media, especially, the visual entertainment media, under which movie may be categorized definitely portrays the contemprory society. Lets not forget the limits of a director/scriptwriter’s freedom of expression if he /she ever wanted to cross his/her limits, his movies would never be certified by our censor board. We have lots of previous examples of creative/bold movies being rejected on these grounds. So for an immensely creative and resourceful director like Maniratnam Sir, his heroines are a way apart from the usual glam, dump, submissive heroines of other movies. This may at least bring some change in the thinking of our society and women in particular who dare to think/behave apart. Hats off to Suhasini madam..I still admire her satirical smile and laughter when she shows both emotions of grief and satire together…bet no one else other than the couple..Director/heorine combination can acheive that!!!


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