The south Indian film industry has discovered a new commercial formula in the form of heroine-oriented action films. While glamorous Sneha and Namitha are playing policewomen in Telugu films Bhavani IPS and Deshadrohi respectively, multilingual actress Asin has been cast as a martial arts exponent in a Tamil-English bilingual 19 Steps.
"I'm a crazy fan of Vijayashanti (who gained popularity as a tough cop in Karthavyam). If I succeed in doing 10 per cent of what she did, I have my career made. To make my role work, I have shed nine kilograms and hope to shed three more before the film goes on floors," Namitha told IANS.
"I have taken my new role very seriously and am being put through the wringer by an action director who may also choreograph the stunts. I'm going to do some of the risky scenes sans the body double to inject realism and infuse more sincerity," said the actress, who is usually seen in glamorous roles in films like Don.
Asin's claim to fame so far has been Ghajini. Sneha, on the other hand, had graduated to the major league through the Tamil remake of Munnabhai M.B.B.S starring thespian Kamal Haasan.
The three female leads have never done a major action role so far and are at the threshold of a major image change.
The tough woman cop role did its bit to others' careers as well. Pakistani actress Mumaith Khan established herself through an action-oriented role in Maissamma IPS that was panned by critics, but proved to be an above-average commercial success.
Though Mumaith, who was seen in item number Dekh le in Munnabhai M.B.B.S., continues to play silly roles, her stock in Telugu filmdom has gone up to the extent of her landing better roles than her hitherto infamous item numbers.
Telugu star Anushka has suddenly become a rage in the south after last year's horror-flick Arundhati, which had action scenes too, and proved commercially viable in Telugu and Tamil.
Now an earlier Telugu film featuring Anushka opposite veteran Suman is being dubbed into Tamil after the success of Arundhati - a movie dominated by her in a double role.
Incidentally, Bhavani IPS is the fourth remake of Telugu original Karthavyam starring Vijayashanti. It was dubbed into Tamil as Vyjayanthi IPS, marking the start of her chequered career in action films that earned her the title 'lady superstar'.
The Tamil version was remade into Hindi as Tejaswini, setting cash registers ringing all over India.
Karthavyam is said to have been loosely based on real life incidents in the career of India's first woman 'super-cop' Kiran Bedi.
"Heroine centric films are frowned upon by the ballooned egos of male stars, but they are more commercially viable as they can be dubbed into other languages and released in multiple television channels nationally," distributor Arul Raj told IANS over phone from Madurai, some 400 km from here.
"The phenomenon was amply proved by the tinkling cash registers during the release of "Arundhati". Its dubbed version in Tamil did excellent business resulting in our being inclined to distribute more such projects movies," Raj added.
Producer-director Ramanarayanan, who also heads the Tamil Film Producers' Council and earned huge profit from Arundhati, endorsed the view.
"The success of dubbed local and foreign films have opened new vistas of business because of the cost factor. No fan insists on paying less for a dubbed film and actually are happy if the overall result on screen is good. Arundhathi in its Telugu and Tamil avatars are decent recent examples," Ramanarayanan said.
"Moreover, female actors have lesser star-tantrums, charge lower fees, and many times perform better than their male counterparts," he added.