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On Trisha Krishnan’s 38th Birthday, Subhash K Jha Selects Her 5 Finest Performances

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.

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2.     Nuvvostanante Nenoddantana(2005, Telugu):  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.

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