It was 2006. My eyes were glued to a supposed comic film. A film which tried to highlight the comic side of actor Madhavan and failed miserably. The only redemption was Vaigai Puyal Vadivelu. But someone else caught my eye. An unknown actress was scorching the screen. Mobilea song was instant addiction not for the music but for that actress who seemed to have descended straight from heaven. Those seductive eyes and perfectly chiseled frame are one of those memories which will stand the test of time. Calling her a crush would be an understatement. She was love. She was the heavenly beauty. I still didn’t know her name but there was a constant yearning to see more of her on screen. Even Sundar C wouldn’t have imagined such a long innings for the actress when he introduced her to Tamil Cinema. But introducing her was one of the best things that Sundar C ever did as a director. It was an accident waiting to happen. A sweet unexpected accident. An accident named Sweety.
Tamil Cinema has this bad habit of letting go of talented heroines after the first glimpse. We tend to wait until that breakout role happens. I guess it’s an eternal habit. Sweety disappears for 3 years to become one of the leading ladies in Telugu Cinema. She didn’t have to do much though. But her presence was an irresistible attraction to lure the audience. All she needed was that one defining film to take the first steps towards superstardom. That film was Arundhati . Arundhati stunned everyone. It wasn’t just a film. It was a storm which completely swept regional cinema. Suddenly one name was on everybody’s lips – Anushka Shetty. Makers were rushing to her doorsteps to cast her in their films I wouldn’t blame them. Arundhati had power and strength written all over it despite the supernatural angle. There was no stopping Anushka from that point. She resurfaced as Illaya Thalapathy’s lady love in Vettaikaran. The film wouldn’t feature in anybody’s favourite list but Anushka’s dance moves in the songs are unforgettable. The star had just arrived.
She found the right balance at this point by effortlessly slipping into her actress and seductress avatars whenever she wanted. We knew the seductress before. It was time for us to know the actress. Films like Vedam, Deiva Thirumagal , Irandam Ulagam were carefully spaced out between her glamorous avatars. She was quietly making a difference one role at a time. There were no loud screams or tags or loud applause to crown her achievements. But a silent transition was happening. She began to decorate her role with subtle emotions and finesse. She knew how to make her presence felt even in an ensemble like Vaanam. Deiva Thirumagal pitted her against Vikram and she won us over with an understated portrayal. Even in Size Zero she debunked all the myths about being fat by sprinkling the role with her own charm and sexiness. Yennai Arindhal made her yearn for her man just the way I yearn for her presence. I sometimes wish the makers who remade Vikramarkudu had cast her in all the remakes. Nobody comes even remotely close to reprising her role. My favourite though is Irandam Ulagam where Selva attempts for a role reversal of sorts with Anushka’s character. Though the film was underwhelming her presence saved the film to a certain extent. The bankable star slowly transformed into a fine performer.
It was time for the whole of India to take notice. The Bahubali franchise wasn’t about Bahubali. The narration was woven in such a way that every incident in the movie revolved around Deva’s oath and her actions. Rajamouli should have named the franchise Devasena instead of Bahubali. Despite appearing in two different avatars the firmness befitting a queen remains intact throughout the franchise. She holds on to her principles despite the ups and downs in her life. The whole of India was glued and rightly so for the queen was quietly claiming what was rightly hers. The throne of the lady superstar belonged to the queen South Cinema. She didn’t need a tag or the constant adoration that comes with it. She didn’t need that at all. She had already carved a niche for herself without too much fuss. The fact that she had shared Screen space with the superstar is a perfect icing on the cake. Hope we see more movies of Anushka in upcoming years.