Since it’s International Women’s Day, here’s a list of the most inspiring and relatable female characters I’ve seen in recent Telugu movies. From independent leaders to aspiring modern businesswomen, these characters largely impact the films that they are a part of, shining more than their male counterparts!
Note: The characters are organized into categories and then ordered based on the release dates of the movies that they are from. There is no relative ordering between the films and the list is not exhaustive; it is a list of the ten female characters that I found most inspiring and/or relatable from the films that I’ve seen in the last decade.
Powerful and Game Changing
Sahasra (Anukokunda Oka Roju)
An aspiring playback singer, Sahasra is seemingly a normal character until you realize that she’s missing an entire day from her life. With such a suspenseful concept, Anukokunda Oka Roju provided Charmi Kaur with her first heroine-oriented role and she plays out the shock and anxiety that an every-day girl like Sahasra would go through in such a unique situation wonderfully. Watch the movie on YouTube
A wildly popular film, Arundhati elevated Anushka Shetty’s status in the Telugu cinema industry. She portrayed two characters in this film, one as the grandmother queen and another as the modern heir, and her performances proved that she has the mettle to play performance-oriented roles and carry an entire film on her shoulders. Her portrayal of Jejjama in specific was terrifyingly powerful.
A missing husband and a recent bomb blast leave Anaamika to solve the puzzle that her life has become. Nayanatara adds depth to Anaamika’s character, making her struggles more relatable despite the extremity of her situation.
Those who have seen the movie (who hasn’t?) will not be surprised to see the majestic queen of Mahishmati on this list. Her ability to control the kingdom, save the throne and raise both of the princes makes her stand out as the most powerful character in Baahubali. Though originally meant to be played by Sridevi, Sivagami gave Ramya Krishna a new look in recent times and it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing her role as effectively.
Independent, Modern and Relatable
Though Sekhar Kammula’s first feature film is titled Anand, its story mainly revolves around the stubborn, independent and very realistic character of Roopa. This movie was Kamalinee Mukherjee’s debut in Telugu and with the release of the film we were introduced to not only a heart-touching role, but a talented actress as well.
Another well-rounded, natural character from another splendid Sekhar Kammula movie, Seetha is very similar to Roopa in many ways. Maybe it’s because she is played by the same Kamalinee Mukherjee from Anand or maybe it’s because the author wrote the character this way, but, either way, Seetha is still charming in her own right and has her own ambitions that she strives to achieve.
Madhu (Happy Days)
Seeing Madhu transform from a nervous fresher in college to a smart, organized and confident senior justifies her placement on this list. Though Happy Days is told from the perspective of Chandhu, I’m interested in how the film would have turned out if Sekhar Kammula had narrated the four years from her perspective instead. This is also one of my favorite roles of Tamanna Bhatia.
Mahalakhsmi (100% Love)
Yes, she starts of as a village girl obsessed with her cousin Balu, but if you put that aside, Mahalakshmi is a pleasure to watch as she becomes more mature and confident throughout the film while still maintaining her own morals. This is my other favorite role of Tamanna’s and she clearly stands out more than Naga Chaitanya does in the film.
Nithya (Ala Modalaindi)
Nithya is a playful yet innocent character who doesn’t realize her own feelings for Gautham. She speaks her mind, can defend herself from cat-callers and has the guts to cancel a marriage because of her fiance’s suspicions. Ala Modalaindi was the Telugu debut for both director Nandini Reddy, one of the few female directors in Telugu, and actress Nithya Menon. Nithya has proved from her consistently impressive performances since that she is currently one of the best actresses in the South Indian film industry.
Tara (OK Bangaram)
An aspiring architect with strong beliefs that she holds despite controversy, Tara is inspiring for her individuality and the depth in her character that Nithya Menon provides through her expressions. A modern character for a modern film that might not be for everyone, but still manages to impress.
It was hard coming up with this list, not because there were so many options to chose from, but because good, relatable female protagonists are hard to find in Telugu films. Let’s hope that this changes in coming years, because having strong female characters can only make films more versatile and realistic, allowing a stronger bond to form between the audience and the characters that inspire them.
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