It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a winner of any Indian beauty pageant must be nurturing a dream of debuting in Kollywood. In past two decades Kollywood has seen quite a number of Miss Indians and Miss Worlds making Kollywood a launch pad or a consolidation pad.
The latest in the scene is Parvathy Omanakuttan, Miss India 2008. She is being launched as heroine in the Tamil film ‘Uma Maheswaram’, directed by the young Nithin Ramakrishnan. The ‘Pooja’ launch of the film took place at AVM Studios in Chennai on May 17. The tall lanky Parvathy plays the role of a dancer and waiting for her fortunes to shine bright.
When beauties like Zeenat Aman, Meenakshi Seshadri, Juhi Chawla won the pageants Tamil cinema was looking up to Hindi cinema for inspirations. So Kollywood was not a tempting attraction to the beauty queens. Even then some Miss India winners did try their hands in Tamil.
Meenakshi Seshadri who won the Miss India contest in 1981 at age of 18 did her first Tamil film ‘En Rathathin Rathame’ opposite K. Bhagyaraj 1989. It was a remake of Mr. India and Meenakshi got the commanding role Sridevi played in Hindi. But film was a disaster and she lost the race. She was brought back in 1994 by K. Balachander for ‘Duet’. But only A R Rahman was remembered in the film.
Juhi Chawla was Miss India 1984 and made her debut in Kollywood with the dubbed from Kannada movie ‘Paruvaragam’ opposite Ravichandran in 1987. The film was hit and the songs were a rage. Later she was seen in the quad-lingual ‘Naattukoru Nallavan’ opposite Rajinikanth. But her eyes were elsewhere and she became one of the finest model-turned-actresses in Bollywood.
Sonu Walia who embarked on a career in film after winning Miss India 1985 came to Tamil in 1989. She paired opposite Sathyaraj in the fil ‘Dravidan’ only to go back to Bombay. How ever she became one of the unforgettable faces after she danced for ‘Rakamma Kaiya Thattu’ with Rajinikanth in ‘Thalapathy’.
Miss India World 1993 Pooja Batra first appearance in a film was for the item number “Shock Adikuthu Sona” in ‘Aasai’. Then after doing a few films including the ‘Virasat’ Pooja Batra returned to Tamil with ‘Oruvan’ opposite Sarath Kumar in 1999. But the beauty is best known for her cameo in ‘Kandukonden Kandukonden’ dancing with Ajith singing ‘Smaiyai Smaiyai’ on the deck.
And the fanfare came in 1994 when Sushmitha Sen and Aishawarya Rai won the Miss Universe and Miss World crowns respectively. Sushmitha Sen plunged into Bollywood in 1996 almost immediately after winning the crown. But the very next year she did her first film in Tamil, ‘Ratchagan’ opposite Nagarjuna. The big banner much hyped film with the music of A R Rahman was a non-starter. But one remembers her as the ‘Shakalaka Baby’ of ‘Mudhalvan’.
But the story of Aishwarya Rai is very different.
Aishwarya Rai was very popular even before she made it in films. Remember the Pepsi commercial where Amir Khan does dangerous stunts to get her a Pepsi? Remember the flat stomach advertisement for a television brand? In truth when Sushmitha Sen was crowned Miss India above Aishwarya in 1994 the public was shocked as Ash was more popular with them. How ever Sushmitha Sen won the Miss Universe crown and Aishwaya won the Miss World crown in the same year.
If Sushmitha Sen straight away entered films Aishwarya was very particular that she should be launched in films by the one and only Mani Ratnam. So the most beautiful girl of the year had to wait until 1997 and Mani Ratnam launched her in ‘Iruvar’. Aishwarya’s present stature stemmed from her good decision to care for worthy films and not just any. ‘Iruvar’ was a serious film and her role was restrained and delicate she had no opportunity to cash her beauty.
With her ambition fulfilled Aishwarya did her second film also in Tamil. Shankar directed ‘Jeans’ was her first major box office hit. She then went to Bollywood she saw and she conquered. But Aishwarya still has a soft cornered fascination for Tamil. Her last Tamil film was the critically acclaimed ‘Kandukonden Kandukonden’ in 1999.
Even after more than a decade since her last Tamil film Aishwarya is still the most wanted heroine in Kollywood. Bur her status and stature was too big for ordinary films. Rajinikanth wanted her for ‘Padayappa’ and ‘Baba’. He also tried for her to be his ‘Chandramuki’. But Aishwarya could not take the offers. But 2010 is going to be her year in Kollywood. The biggest and most anticipated two films of the year are riding on her. Mani Ratnam’s ‘Raavanan’ and Shankar-Rajinikanth’s ‘Endhiran’ are proof to Aishwarya’s hold in the industry.
After Aishwarya Rai nobody could garner fans and films although they tried hard. Our producers also were keen to cast a beauty only for the glamour quotient and the hype it would generate before the release. Nobody sincerely wanted to give a role of substance to these beautiful girls. Here we don’t entirely blame the industry as some beauty queens were more than just duds for Kollywood.
The first film Yukta Mookhey: Miss World 1999 signed was ‘Poovellam Un Vaasam’ in Tamil opposite Ajith. But the 5’11’ tall brunette didn’t have it in her. So she was packed off after a song. You can see Yukta in the song ‘Yuktha Muki Yuktha Muki Neethana’ with Ajith. Yukta Mookhey was a non-starter even in Bollywood.
Lara Dutta: Miss Universe 2000 did her sole film in Tamil ‘Arasatchi’ opposite Arjun in 2004. Eighteen-year-old girl Priyanka Chopra was crowned Miss World at Johannesburg, South Africa in 2000. Priyanka Chopra made her film debut in the 2002 Tamil film ‘Thamizhan’ playing the love interest of the hero Vijay. In the mass action hero film she had precious little to do. But in Bollywood she is on the power list and today she is the highest paid Indian actress after Aishwarya Rai. Like Aishwarya, Priyanka is also beauty and talent in one. Tamil industry can rightfully lament for not having used her well.
Tanushree Dutta: Miss India Universe 2004 and Sarah Jane: Miss India World 2007 were seen launched together in ‘Theeradha Vilaiyattu Pillai’ opposite Vishal. But the fate of the recently released film and their impact is known.
The latest to jump in the Kollywood Ocean is Parvathy Omanakuttan Nair. This Miss India World 2008 ended up as first runner-up at the Miss World 2008 international competition. She has said “I’ve always wanted to do only performance-oriented roles”. But she also said “My clothes will be determined by the script and nature of my on-screen character”. Her debut film in Kollywood is ‘Uma Maheswaram’ in which she is paired with newcomer Mani. The film is directed by Nithin Ramakrishnan, will feature Prakash Raj in an important role. Will she or wont she? ‘Uma Maheswaram’ will tell.
All the best girl!