Jyotika in a still from Ponmagal Vandhal.
Jyotika in a still from Ponmagal Vandhal.

Ponmagal Vandhal star Jyotika says commercial films portraying women as ‘unintelligent’ made her ‘very upset’

Jyotika, who will be seen as a lawyer in the legal drama Ponmagal Vandhal, said that she was disturbed by the portrayal of women as ‘unintelligent’ in commercial entertainers.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By Samrudhi Ghosh
UPDATED ON MAY 28, 2020 03:05 PM IST

With theatres across the country still closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many films are eyeing a direct-to-digital release. The courtroom drama Ponmagal Vandhal, headlined by Jyotika, is the first major Tamil film to get an online release. It will start streaming on Amazon Prime Video from May 29.

In an interaction with the media via video conferencing, Jyotika said that a theatrical release is a ‘celebration’ for actors but a direct-to-digital release will work in favour of a small-budget film like Ponmagal Vandhal.

“We like to have our audience next to us -- clapping, applauding and whistling. But in these times, it is only fair that producers get the opportunity to get small films out because once we overcome the Covid-19 situation, it will only be the big films that will be lined up for release. I don’t see a film like Ponmagal Vanthal hitting the theatres for a year-and-a-half,” she said.

Jyotika said that Ponmagal Vandhal is releasing in 200 countries and territories and with over 13 million views, it has ‘created quite a sensation on YouTube’. She added that none of her previous films had this kind of reach.

Talking about the film, she said, “We have underlined issues with respect to child abduction and rape, which are major problems in society today. But it’s not like a documentary - there is an underlying storyline with elements of a thriller.”

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Jyotika, who is originally from Mumbai, is still ‘not very fluent’ in Tamil and found the lengthy dialogues and courtroom language challenging. “I took my script two months in advance and mugged up my lines,” she said.

Incidentally, Jyotika made her acting debut in Priyadarshan’s Doli Saja Ke Rakhna, her only Hindi film till date. When asked about a possible comeback in Bollywood, she said, “As it goes in Bollywood, if your first film doesn’t do well, you don’t get a lot of work. So I just drifted to the South and started getting work. If something nice comes up, I would love to come back and speak Hindi. Meanwhile, I am ruling the roost here, so I am very happy.”

After marrying Tamil superstar Suriya, Jyotika took a sabbatical from films for a few years, before making a smashing return with 36 Vayadhinile. In her second innings as an actor, she has consciously picked roles that her children -- Diya and Dev -- would be ‘proud of’.

“Today, I am a mother. I have left what I like and my priorities behind, and looked at what my kids like. There is a lot of change in a woman after marriage and kids. Anything I take up, I want my kids to see and feel proud of. When they go to school, I don’t want anyone to make them feel embarrassed and say, ‘We saw your mother like this…’ I want to be an example for my kids,” she said.

Jyotika said that back in the day, the portrayal of women in Tamil cinema left her ‘very upset’. “There was a phase in Tamil Nadu, when there were just one or two women-centric films. Whenever I went to the theatre as a woman, I came back feeling very upset with the way they were portrayed. This was around 2000-2006. Every time I went to the theatre, I saw how unintelligent the woman was shown as, especially in large, commercial films made for a larger audience. It raised a lot of questions in my mind,” she said.

On her part, Jyotika made a firm decision to not take up any role that she did not agree with. “I don’t want to name them but I turned down many films because the role was not respectable. It was never about the length of the role but I didn’t find it respectable enough,” she said.

Women-centric films are finally being made and watched in Tamil Nadu, Jyotika said. However, she would like to see more protagonists who are ‘35-plus’.

“There has been huge change over the last five to seven years. There are a lot of women-centric films that are being made and doing well. In the South, 90 per cent women-centric films that have released have done well as compared to male-centric films, where it is 50/50. So I think women-centric films always come with good content and we work thrice as much harder to get it right,” she said.

“One thing which is not picking up is as women are ageing, we still don’t have more of 35-plus heroines who are ruling the roost. There are more films made with the younger ones. I think that it would be pathbreaking to see all the women above 40, 45 and 50 -- the way it is in Hollywood -- if there are more films made on them,” she added.

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