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Marriage = End of Innings?

Posted November 14th, 2017, 12:32 PM IST

Marriage = End of Innings?

Pavani Gangireddy may not be a very well-known name in T-town, although she featured in films like Malli Malli Idi Rani Roju, Jyo Achuthananda and Brahmotsavam. But what’s really interesting about the 30-year-old actress at this juncture is her lead role in actor Rahul Ravindran’s Drushti. While married actresses playing female leads in Tollywood is very rare, in this case, she’s not just a mother of a five-year-old but is expecting a baby too!

Pavani recalls, “When I was offered the lead role, I asked director Ram Abbaraju if the hero, Rahul Ravindran knew I was married. To which Rahul replied, ‘I am married too. Why will I have a problem?’ How sweet and sensible was that!” This leaves us wondering about the rarity of married actresses playing female leads in Telugu cinema.

Marriage, a deal breaker

Although she retracted her statement later, Samantha made quite the point when she said that the number of offers trickling in reduced soon after she announced her enagagment. It’s interesting how a male actor’s wedlock is often a grand event while a female star’s marriage spells doom for her career, at least according to industry norms. While actresses are asked, ‘Will you continue doing films after your marriage,’ no actor has ever faced a similar scenario. Marriage is thus quite a deal-breaker for female stars, with many fading into oblivion soon after getting hitched.

Popular TV host and actress Anasuya Bharadwaj, who has several films coming her way, recalls how several people expressed have apprehension about her marital status. “I don’t want to take names but several well-known film directors have told me, ‘You should have entered the industry earlier, Anasuya.’ When I asked them why, they said, ‘You are married now.’ I fail to understand why that should be a problem at all because for every artiste, private and professional lives are two different aspects. I am glad they are able to co-exist for me,” she shares.

A couple of years ago, soon after Amala Paul announced her wedding to her now ex-husband, director A.L. Vijay, the makers of her Telugu film Vastha Ne Venuka began looking for a replacement, citing that her marriage could be a disadvantage for the film! Probably this explains why leading ladies like Anushka Shetty, Kajal Aggarwal, Tamannaah, Shruti Haasan and others always maintain that “they are single”!

In the past, it was different

Interestingly, yesteryear actresses like Savitri, Bhanumathi, Anjali Devi, Jamuna, Vijaya Nirmala and Sarada, among others, reigned the silver screen and remained in their prime even post their wedding. Cultural Director of Telangana and film historian Mamidi Harikrishna states the reason for this. “In the past, female actresses were looked down upon as it was thought a profession of lower social strata. It was tough to so find women to act that men would dress up as them very often. That’s why even a married actress held a great deal of value. Of course, they were all talented too. But by the time Vanisree entered the industry, they also became fashion icons and desirable subjects with provocative sequences being filmed on them. That increased with every passing generation. Now, they aren’t just performers, but also objects of desire,” he states.

“Soon after a woman marries, the social stigma and moral boundaries of desiring a woman step in; you cannot lust after a married woman! In the initial days, this wasn’t the case because the heroine was the family girl while vamps were portrayed as the woman of desire. Today, the lead actress are both. That settles the equation,” says filmmaker and critic Mahesh Kathi.

Harikrishna also explains how marriage is considered a taboo in the glam industry. “Actresses mostly dealt with the conservative mindset by keeping their marriages a secret. For instance, Gang Leader released after Vijayashanti’s secret wedding which no one was aware about. We have many more examples of actresses doing the same. People may disagree but historically, marriage has marked a full stop in the careers of actresses. It was only years later that they made a comeback playing mothers, sisters or other character roles,” he says.

Is a change in the offing?

Well-known film personality Thammareddy Bharadwaj doesn’t believe that marriage has stopped any actress from moving ahead as it’s talent that wins the game. “Marriage ends an actress’ career only if she isn’t talented and is an eye candy in all her films. For someone who is cast to titillate the youth it could spell doom. Otherwise, if you recall, Soundarya too went on to play female leads till the day she died, despite being married,” he observes. Both him and Harikrishna point towards Bollywood where the likes of Aishwarya Rai, Vidya Balan and Kareena Kapoor are still mainstream heroines.