However, when the Tamil cinema world was running towards this stereotypical setup, a Director decided to provide songs for Heroines, introducing the kind of character they are playing. Our very own Mani Ratnam has placed such songs, not in one or two but in many of his films. These songs were either introductory songs for the Heroine, or they gave individual screenspace for them. So, here’s a look at all of Mani Ratnam’s Heroine-centric songs!
1. Oho Megham Vandhadho- Mouna Ragam:
A collaboration between Mani Ratnam and Ilaiyaraaja, the entire Mouna Ragam album is one that is always in trend. The character Divya, played by Revathy, is not your typical heroine material. She is someone who appears to be extremely happy and happy-go-lucky in life, while she actually has a lot of suppressed emotions and trauma deep inside. In an attempt to show her fun side, Mani Ratnam introduces Divya with ‘Oho Megham VAndhadho’. She sings and dances to this song in the rain, purposely avoiding her matchmaking ceremony at home. The song sets the movie in action, as after the song, Divya’s life changes forever. Even today, Oho Megham Vandhadho is a song that we feel like dancing to when it rains.
2. Yamunai Aatrile- Thalapathi:
Yet another classic of Ilaiyaraaja, ‘Yamunai Aatrile’ is a small yet striking piece. Subbalakshmi, performed by Shobana, is a coy and diffident character who gets smitten by Surya’s (Rajinikanth) outward nature. But how to show that Subbulakshmi comes from a traditional background? Well, Mani Ratnam has an answer. A Carnatic composition about Lord Krishna and his consort Radha, ‘Yamunai Aatrile’ not only introduces her but also tells us the kind of person she is. Adding to the song’s mellifluous tunes are Shobana’s expressive eyes that talk. The song was so iconic that it even had a call back in the film 96’.
3. Chinna Chinna Asai- Roja:
Being his very first album, all of Rahman’s songs from Roja are still considered some of his best work. While the entire album was a hit, ‘Chinna Chinna Aasai’ is something different. The lyrics and the composition itself establish the personality of Roja (Madhubala). Her quirkiness and curiosity are revealed when Roja sings “Meen pidithu meendum aatril vida aasai.” At the same time, when she sings, “Sogangalai ellam vittuvida aasai,” we understand that she has her fair share of troubles which she wishes to ignore. Considering that the movie was based on the character Roja, the song was extremely important as a ‘Heroine introduction’ song.
4. Hello Mister Ethirkatchi- Iruvar:
Iruvar is a movie that has a number of women characters. Four talented actresses, Gautami, Tabu, Revathi and Aishwarya Rai play different characters in the film. With these many characters, Mani Ratnam placed only one song introducing one Heroine. That’s how we know that she’s the most important woman character in the film. Starring Aishwarya’s second character Kalpana, ‘Hello Mister Ethirkatchi’ introduces the acting and dancing prowess of the character. While Kalpana dances without fear and with confidence, we see Anandan (Mohan Lal) dazed or almost hypnotised as he can’t believe his own eyes. In Harini’s voice, the high-pitched portions of the song make Anandan come back to his senses and pursue Kalpana. The song helps establish that Aishwarya’s Kalpana is a drastic contrast to her first character Pushpavalli.
5. Yaaro Yaarodi- Alaipayuthey:
Alaoipayuthey is purely a romantic drama. It is made for all those who love love. The Hero and the Heroine are equally important in a romantic film as the story completely revolves around them. To give them equal importance, Mani Ratnam placed songs to introduce both characters. While our charming Karthik (Madhavan) sings ‘Endrendrum Punnagai’ and reveals his carefree nature, our sweet Shakthi (Shalini) sings and dances to ‘Yaaro Yaarodi’. The song defines her extrovert character and, her thoughts about love and marriage. Shakthi speaks her mind (rather sings her mind) when she performs for Yaaro Yaarodi. This justifies why Karthik gets impressed with her at their very first meeting.
6. Ven Megham- Guru:
‘Ven Megham’ is a song that show’s Sujata’s (Aishwarya Rai) boldness and confidence in Mani Ratnam’s Guru. Through montages, the song explains that she is brave enough to run away from her home. This later helps us believe that she is really strong to support her husband when he gets paralysed or when he is in legal trouble. Through a fun entry song, he managed to convey to the audience the kind of person Sujata is going to be for the rest of the film. The perfectly choreographed steps along with her grace make it all the more special.
7. Malargal Keten- OK Kanmani:
‘Malargal Keten’ from OK Kanmani is not a song that introduces Tara (Nithya Menen). But, through the song, the director gave the character the freedom to establish her own persona. At a time when Adhi struggles to convince Ganapathy uncle to let them live-in together, Tara breaks into song to impress Bhavani aunty. The very moment reveals that Tara thinks on her feet and that she is quite impulsive. She is someone who doesn’t hesitate to take the right steps to get things done. It also conveys that although she is someone who has made modern choices, she also known Carnatic music, something that’s considered traditional.
8. Alaikadal- Ponniyin Selvan I
The song ‘Alaikadal’ from Ponniyin Selvan I is inspired by the book. Poonguzhali is a great singer in the book, and that character trait follows suit in the film as well. While the characters sing many songs in the book, Mani Ratnam placed Alaikadal to introduce Poonguzhali in the film. Straightaway, we know that Poonguzhali has a passion for two things; singing and the sea. The lyrics and the melancholic composition hint at the feelings she has kept hidden in her heart. Outside, she is a tomboyish girl. But inside, she is a woman with all kinds of feminine features. With ‘Alaikadal’ we get to know Poonguzhali in and out.