From ‘Sita Mahalakshmi’ to ‘Kumari Srimathi’, here are some inspiring and ambitious women characters on the Telugu screen
“I want to do something splendid before I go into my castle, something heroic or wonderful that won't be forgotten after I'm dead. I don't know what, but I'm on the watch for it, and mean to astonish you all some day. I think I shall write books, and get rich and famous, that would suit me, so that is my favourite dream." – Can you guess if this ambition is of a man or a woman?
If I mention that this is the dream of lead woman Jo’s character in Louisa May Alcott’s book ‘Little Women’, then people would accept, applaud and even praise because it’s fiction. However, that wouldn’t be the case if such a character exists in real life. Her ambition would be questioned and mocked, she would’ve faced a hell lot of criticism, her journey to realise that dream would be far from easy, she would’ve been labelled ‘selfish’, ‘difficult’, ‘bossy’, ‘attention-seeker’, and many more unspeakable words – all just because she’s a woman. But if that ambition was of a man, he would simply be seen as someone who’s working hard to achieve his goal. That’s the double standard this patriarchal society has set for over a long period of time.
But if today I’m remembering those lines from Louisa's work which was first published in the late 1860s, then she has succeeded in turning her dream into a reality and has once again set the precedent, like many women before and after her, that ambition has no gender. But in a largely male-dominated world, where it’s an uphill battle for fiercely independent, free-spirited, fearless and firm women to be and stand up for themselves, let alone succeed, the stories of their fighting spirit are essential.
Following is a list of such inspiring and ambitious women characters on the Telugu screen, who had big dreams and an iron will to realise them.
‘Sita Mahalakshmi’ in Godavari
People tend to have a misconception that career-oriented women are stone-hearted, and don't have feelings or desires. That’s not true and Sita is a character who proves this notion wrong. She aspires to succeed in her career as a fashion designer, and at the same time wishes to marry a man of her choice. She desires to live life on her own terms and have it all. She doesn’t take no for an answer and doesn’t remain silent on things that matter to her. Although she struggles to keep her boutique afloat, Sita believes that her collection will become world famous someday. No one takes her ambition seriously, including her loving parents, but she doesn’t give up. Everyone calls her ‘stubborn’, but she’s just resolute.
‘Chitra’ in Pelli Choopulu
Chitra (Ritu Varma) is a heroine for many voiceless women because she has a voice of her own. She clearly knows what she wants, demands it unapologetically and even shows how it’s earned. While working towards her own goal of going to Australia, she inspires an irresponsible and carefree Prashanth to find his own ground. The MBA graduate knows how to run a business, how to fix a broken down truck, how to move on and when to hold on, and most importantly, how to get what she sets her heart upon. Most people might label her as headstrong and domineering, but she is just strong-willed and ambitious.
‘Manasa Samyuktha’ in Miss India
If you’re born into a middle class family, the aspiration to become an entrepreneur is a far-fetched dream, and if it is dreamt by a girl, then it's irrationally labelled as a ‘fantasy’ and in addition, people give unsolicited advice that ‘business is for men and women should just find the right guy and get married’. Be it in reel or real life, sexism is the same, so the film’s lead character Samyuktha (Keerthy Suresh) too, faces many hurdles when she decides to become a businesswoman and nurtures the ambition to make the world taste her grandfather’s therapeutic ‘Chai’. She faces opposition from her family, her idea is criticised and her dream gets trivialised, but she stands strong, even against a powerful misogynistic rival, to accomplish her goal.
‘Arya’ in Anni Manchi Sakunamule
In this breezy and heartwarming family entertainer, if there’s a character that’s super smart, pragmatic, focussed and ambitious, then that’s Arya (Malavika Nair). At just 21 years of age, she takes on the financial responsibility of the family; puts strict controls on budget; asks her father to replace the damaged washing machine as a birthday gift instead of a party; gets her sister married; strives relentlessly to establish her own coffee business and finally pays off the home loan and gifts happiness to her father – which is atypical in a patriarchal society where males are the breadwinners and heads of the family. But in this film, Arya is a ‘daughter’ and she takes over the reins of driving her family ahead.
‘Srimathi’ in Kumari Srimathi
“Abdul Kalam, Rajinikanth, Itikelapudi Srimathi” – Can there be any other statement to reflect the ambition of this lady? A 30-year-old single woman, Srimathi (Nithya Menen) resolves to set up a bar in her hometown so that she can earn enough money to reclaim her ancestral property. Now that’s too many blasphemous things in two lines – A woman, unmarried, 30 years old, wants to open a bar, earn money independently – people think. But that’s what challenging the status quo and changing the course look like, appalling and unspeakable at first, but eventually liberating and historic, even in the remotest of corners and farthest of times.
Should see if Srimathi achieves her goal and makes herself, her mother and grandmother proud of her choices. The seven-episode webseries in Telugu, with its dubbed versions in Tamil, Malayalam and Hindi, will be arriving on Amazon Prime Video on September 28.
Updated date: Wednesday, 01 Nov 2023 - 2:27 PM