Suhasini with her husband Mani Ratnam
Suhasini with her husband Mani

The South Indian film industry has often been criticised for giving more importance to men and restricting the roles of women to being glam dolls. But some women have really dared to ride against the current in the industry and make an impact on the society.

For decades, women's roles have been limited to acting and skin show and they were sceptical to explore other fields of filmmaking especially direction. TP Rajalakshmi, who was one of the most popular actresses of 1930s, was the first female director in the South Indian film industry. Besides playing heroine, she also directed movies like "Miss Kamala" (1936) and "Madurai Veeran" (1938).

Later, Vijaya Nirmala, Suhasini and some others followed her footsteps. Taking cue from them, more women made their directorial debut down south. While many actress stepped into the director's shoes only after being recognised as an actress, new generation women have dared to start their career as directors. Here are some of those female directors, who dared to live life on their terms, on the occasion of International Women's Day.

Vijaya Nirmala: She entered the industry as a child artiste with the 1957 Telugu movie "Panduranga Mahatyam" and rose to stardom with 1964 Malayalam film "Bhargavi Nilayam." After ruling the industry for a decade, she ventured into direction with "Meena" in 1971. She has directed 40 films in Telugu and 1 each in Malayalam and Tamil.

Suhasini Maniratnam: Like Vijaya, she also started her career as an actress and featured in over 200 movies in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam. She turned director with TV Show "Penn" in 1991 and later directed "Indira" in 1995. She has also worked as a dialogue writer and camera assistant on several projects.

Sripriya: She is also a popular actress, who has acted in over 300 films in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam. She debuted as director with 1984 Tamil film "Shanthi Muhoortham." Later, she directed Kollywood movies like "Naane Varuven" (1992) and "Malini 22 Palayamkottai" (2014). "Drushyam," which marked her debut in Telugu, has become a big hit at the box office and got her the much needed appreciation.

Kavita Lankesh: The daughter of late writer and journalist P Lankesh began as a documentary filmmaker and later entered films with the 1999 Kannada film "Deveeri," which went on to win some international, national and state awards. She went to work on nine other Kannada projects in the next 14 years.

Anjali Menon: She debuted as director and screenwriter with Malayalam fim "Kerala Cafe" (2009). She wrote and directed "Manjadikuru" (2012) and "Bangalore Days" (2014) and also penned the story for "Ustad Hotel" (2012). Her last venture "Bangalore Days" became a hit at the box office and won Asianet, Filmfare and Kerala State Film Awards. It has been remade in Tamil as "Bangalore Naatkal."

Nandini Reddy: She debuted as director with 2011 Telugu movie "Ala Modalaindi," which gave her a big break. The movie won her the Nandi Award for Best First Film of a Director and she was also nominated in the category of Filmfare Award for Best Director. Her second film "Jabardasth" was a flop at the box office. Her third venture "Kalyana Vaibhogame," which was released in theatres March 4, has become a big success both critically and commercially.

Sudha Kongara Prasad: She entered film industry as screenwriter with 2002 English movie "Mitr, My Friend," which won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in English. In 2008, she debuted as director with Telugu film "Andhra Andagadu" and forayed into Tamil films with her next venture "Drohi" in 2010. She had caught the attention of viewers with her recent venture, which is bilingual movie made simultaneously in Tamil as "Irudhi Suttru" and Hindi as "Saala Khadoos." 

Roopa Iyer: She is a socially conscious film director and made her debut as director, screenwriter and actor with the Kannada film "Mukha Puta"/"The Cover Page" in 2009. This movie, which is about a child suffering from HIV/AIDS, was premiered in several international film festivals and won some awards. Her second venture "Chandra," which is bilingual film made in Kannada and Tamil, was also a decent hit at the box office.

Sumana Kittur: She started her career as director with 2008 Kannada movie "Slum Bala," which was a big success both critically and commercially. Later, she has churned out two hit Kannada films like "Kallara Santhe" (2009) and "Edegarike" (2012). Now, she is waiting for the release of her next venture "Kiragoorina Gayyaligalu," which is set to hit the screens March 11.

Aishwarya R Dhanush: She made her debut as director with Dhanush's 2012 Tamil film "3," and was nominated for SIIMA Award for Best Debutant Director. Her second directorial venture "Vai Raja Vai" (2015) was a decent success at the box office.

Soundarya R Ashwin: She began her career as a graphic designer and worked in some Tamil films. She turned producer with 2010 Tamil film "Goa," which was made under her banner Ocher Picture Productions. She hogged the limelight with her debut directorial venture "Kochadaiiyaan" (2014), which is historical fiction animated film starring Superstar Rajinikanth and Deepika Padukone.

Also read