Long before Nayanthara and Parvathy Thiruvothu, Trisha was among the first female hero’s of South Indian cinema grabbing attention and acclaim in one author-backed role after another in Tamil and Telugu. Here are my favourites
1. Varsham(2004, Telugu): Trisha’s Tiger Tale…she teams up with Prabhas in this original version of Tiger Shroff’s Hindi Baaghi. Exploited and controlled by her father, Shailaja seeks solace in rain and romance and songs.Every time Trisha and Prabhas bump into each other, it rains hence the title(duh).While the film is distinctly mediocre Trisha rises above the script (as she is wont to) elevating her character to something more than just a patriarchal victim.
2. Nuvvostanante Nenoddantana(2005, Telugu): A bhai-bahen story interwoven into a delicate romance,Trisha excels as a traditional timid girl who fights all odds to be with the man she loves.A nimbly knitted commercial yarn it was remade into several languages and turned Trisha into a pan-India star. To this film goes the distinction of being Parbhudheva’s first directorial. Speaking on Trisha, Prabhudheva says, “She is a legend in her own right. Give her any kind of role she excels. The problem is she has become so big they don’t now how to accommodate her.I was very sure I wanted Trisha and Srihari to play the brother and sister. They were magic together.”
3. Khatta Meetha(2016, Hindi): Trisha’s first Hindi film was a flop. Sadly it erased her chances of becoming the Next Big Thing in Bollywood from the South. Khatta Meetha takes stinging satirical swipes at the epidemic disease of corruption that has taken over the Indian ethos. Tragically the treatment is quite often heavy-handed. But the statement never drowns in the diatribe. Trisha wearing chunky ear-rings and severe bureaucratic expressions made an unusual Bollywood debut. She was different from the short-skirted hotties. Khatta Meetha stands tall in its message of restoring a semblance of moral order in the middleclass. Realism is a remotely but decidedly obtainable component in this parodic parable on the rotten fruits of excessively materialistic aspirations in post-Independence India. Speaking to me after the release of Khatta Meetha Trisha had said, “I was a bit nervous about doing my own lines in Hindi. I’ve done so many Telugu films. But I don’t know the language at all. I know the grammar in Hindi but I can barely manage to speak it.”‘Toh aapki Hindi achchi hai?’ I asked her . ‘Han Achchi hoon (sic.),’ she replied.Trisha continued, “In Chennai no one talks in Hindi. I was a little worried about my Hindi since my character in Khatta Meetha is from a fluent Hindi-speaking belt. So both Priyan(director Priyadarshan) and I decided I wouldn’t dub my own lines. But it’s not a problem. I know I’ll soon master it. It’s simpler than the South Indian languages.”By the time Trisha came to Bollywood she was a veteran of Tamil and Telugu films. “I was so busy doing Tamil and Telugu films that I didn’t get time to consider Hindi films although offers did come. Also I wanted to do something that would give me a wide audience. I chose Priyadarshan and Akshay Kumar. It can’t get any more massy than that. Their combination always works.” Trisha was candid enough to admit she didn’t have that much to do in Khatta Meetha. “It isn’t a heroine-centric role. But I felt it would give me visibility. Look, I may be known in the South. But in Bollywood no one knows me….not yet. I just wanted to be seen. When I started in the South I did smaller parts with big heroes. That always worked for me. One needs to be a part of hit films especially at the start.”Priyadarshan is Trisha’s Christopher Columbus. “He launched me in the South. He launched me in Hindi in Khatta Meetha. He had promised he’d launch me in the right vehicle. In five minutes I knew I wanted to do Khatta Meetha. I want to first make sure I establish myself in Hindi before I do more experimental roles. This is the trend I followed in the South as well.”On working with Akshay she said, “In the Khatta Meetha unit, Akshay was the only person I didn’t know. And he wasn’t just my co-star he was also my producer. He was really sweet. Priyan and Akshay are by now like family to one another. They made sure I was comfortable. This was one of the most professional units I’ve worked with.”
4. ‘96(2018, Tamil): The myth that today’s generations equates love with lust and a love relationship without sex is like a meal without dessert …or whatever…is effectively demolished in this game-changing love story. In this era of lustful cynicism it requires a whole lot of guts to make a film as plunged in the platonic as a seer immersed in his holy chants that no amount of temptation can detract him from.Ram in ‘86 played by Vijay Sethupathi loves Janu(Trisha Krishna) with religious devotion. For the want of a better word, worship is what Ram does. For half the film the younger Ram, played with brooding vulnerability by young Adithya Bhaskar, sits in the classroom glancing anxiously at Janu. He cannot speak to her. On her birthday friends have to bodily lift him and bring him to her to say ‘Happy Birthday’Then school ends. The love-smitten pair moves in separate ways. 22 years later they reunite at a college reunion. The sparks fly. Ram still won’t say the three magical words. He would rather just adore his beloved, a sort of Radha in reverse worshipping Krishna.’86 provides a refreshingly revisionist look at love and romance. There are no villains separating the couple in love, the culprit is the hero’s taciturnity rooted in his spiritual attachment to the object of his adoration. He can’t bring himself to confess his love even when he gets a chance to do so 22 years later.I fell in love with this ostensibly obsolete variety of love where once the love confession is made the magic disappears. Ram won’t say it aloud. He is willing to pay the price. He will remain without his loved one all his life. But he won’t drag his sublime feelings down to earth. Let them float freely in the universe. Let love be.That’s what Gulzar Saab wrote in one of his finest love songs: Humne dekhi hai unn aankhon ki mehekti khushboo haath se chuke ussey rishton ka ilzaam naa do sirf ehsaas hai yeh rooh se mehsoos karo. Pyar ko pyar hi rehne do koi naam do.’96 is a unique take on love.This is love with no strings attached. Sex is not even a thought. The delicately persuasive film says, in not so many words,that love remains even when the one you love is not with you physically. To make a film so passionate lucid engaging and moving about the idea of love , requires a whole lot of guts.
5. Paramapadham Vilayattu(2021): This Trisha’s show through and through. Or so I thought until halfway through, what I thought was a pulpy political drama featuring one of Tamil cinema’s female heroes Trisha as a doughty doctor who takes on a political mafia that threatens to finish off a male version of Jayalalithaa in a hospital conspiracy that seems plucked from the headlines, the narrative suddenly swerved with a tyre-halting screech. And I was watching a different film where a drunken disorderly taxi driver who ought to be in jail, saves Trisha and her vocally and aurally impaired daughter from a car full of goons . The idea here is to pre-empt audiences’ expectation constantly. And yes, we are taken aback by some of the plot manoeuvres .Trisha remains in charge even when the plot swerves away from her. True hero material, this woman.