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A Look At Aishwarya Rajesh’s 2018

Great roles, great films, great year indeed for our Chennai ponnu!

When you think of the name Aishwarya Rajesh, two words come to mind that are precisely what her Twitter bio says of her: ‘Chennai ponnu’. Literally translating to Chennai girl, this actress isn’t someone who could be described as an “overnight sensation”. It took years, meticulous intelligent films, and skills that are rare in the industry, for our Chennai ponnu to reach where she is. And since then, apart from her popularity, her effortless transition from that light-eyed girl with a warm smile to whatever character she plays on screen has only added more to her repertoire.

Saying that the year 2018 was the most fruitful year for 2018 would be inaccurate, as she’s displayed performances to remember a lifetime in the past few years particularly with Kaaka Muttai, Dharma Durai et al. However, this year we saw Aishwarya playing a variety of roles, some completely out of the ordinary, some from her comfort zone, and some that one wouldn’t have expected at all. She’s had a total of five movies, all released in the latter half of the year, but some of them posing as quite a challenge with her acing it with ease.

While she starred in AL Vijay’s Lakshmi this year, as a young girl’s mother, she gave it all. She wasn’t the lead, contrary to her 12-year-old co-star, but she ensured that she made use of whatever little screen time she had with her presence. Her next release – Saamy 2 – was of similar lines, but let’s be honest, it couldn’t have been easy gliding into the shoes of another actress and yet owning the character completely.

It’s post these two films that Aishwarya’s actual performances of the year took place. In Mani Ratnam’s Chekka Chivantha Vaanam, a film that focuses on the men’s stories and their squabbles, where the women were reduced to supporting characters, Aishwarya as Renu was haunting. Particularly of the parts when her character gets arrested for no fault of hers and meets her husband in jail. With disappointment writ large on her face, she plays the role of a martyr but with dignity. It couldn’t have been an easy role to play but she, among the other female leads, emulated the role of a wife, mother, daughter-in-law and an outsider with ease, with her expressions superseding her dialogues.

Bold portrayal of women in Tamil cinema oscillates between hit-and-miss; where filmmakers occasionally nail it but more often than not, stick to manic-pixie-dream-girl tropes that do nothing for the actress or her role. With her filmography so far speaking for itself, Aishwarya seems to have a penchant for strong, bold female characters. Her role in Vetrimaran’s Vada Chennai is something along these lines; something that the actress attests is a role like no other. Not only was it a well-written role, Aishwarya’s dialogue delivery and body language as Padma ensured she had you rapt in attention. She is, after all, the Chennai ponnu that the Tamil industry really needs. In an interview with JFW this year, here’s what she had to say about playing Padma:

“For a female protagonist, she’s a bold, North Madras girl. I know this role will come out as quite a different one compared to all the roles I’ve done in the past. In fact, it’s a role I haven’t seen in ten years or so in Kollywood!”

And then came Kanaa, a difficult role but it was evidently a film dear to her with her delivering a performance that one couldn’t forget too easily. A village girl who loves her father and wants to make him happy, and so she becomes a cricketer. The discrimination she faces and the hardship she endures forms the story, with the rest of the film heavily relying on her performance. It’s easy to play the downtrodden but Aishwarya does it without the need to pander to the crowd or overplay the emotions. There’s the rare subtlety in her performance that reinforces the idea of having more women-lead films down South.

With filmmakers more often roping in actresses who are known for their acting prowess now, the notion about non-Tamil speaking actresses in the industry is slowly moving away. As a Tamil-speaking actress, Aishwarya goes beyond the conventions with her choices. And with 2018 being a good year for her, the upcoming year is already looking up for our Chennai ponnu and her impressive line-up of films.

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