The rise and rise of Trisha

As Trisha turns a year older, we trace the actor's journey from being a quintessential heroine to a formidable force she is now.

BySujatha Narayanan

Published May 04, 2024 | 8:00 AMUpdatedMay 04, 2024 | 12:08 PM

Actor Trisha turns a year older on 4 May

2005. It was a film award’s post-event party. By the time we arrived there, everyone was quite hungry since the award ceremony had ended as late as it often does.

A few of us went directly to the buffet halls. It was already packed with some of the famous names from the South Indian film fraternity.

Almost, no one was near the dance floor. It was one of those evenings that would run late into the night but not without us, filling our stomachs first.

In that melee for looking for a relatively less crowded buffet counter, I saw her.

Perched on top of those plastic chairs that were huddled on top of the other, she’d hoisted herself up on the only space there was to sit comfortably and eat. Just like any of us would have.

But mind you, she wasn’t just ANY of us. She was actor Trisha, resplendent in her blue evening gown that flowed onto the floor and looking as graceful as ever!

The first thought in my head was, “Wow! No tantrums about the lack of fuss around her and absolutely no airs about anyone seeing her like this.”

And she beckoned to me saying, “This buffet counter is a bit free, you guys wanna fill your plates?” My mind voice was like, “What a cool dude of a heroine, man! Such a champ!”

Cut to 21 years later, Trisha is still a champ!

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A rule-breaker

Trisha is successful by breaking rules

Trisha is successful by breaking the rules. (Instagram)

Actor Trisha is called “Thalaivi” (Queen) by her fans and this moniker suits her well; also because of the way she conducts herself off-screen.

When society changes its way of looking at its women for the better, the notion of how a heroine should look and conduct herself off-screen also (hopefully) changes.

If it doesn’t, then, there will be women like Trisha who will make that change happen.

She is successful not by following rules but by breaking them.

The beguiling, warm smile that reaches her eye, giving it a twinkle these days, keeps her ageless.

Ah! The word “age” and the “Indian film heroine” — termed as what’s known as “shelf life” (as if heroines are products that come with an expiry date), heroines usually don’t have more than a decade to call for a career.

But the actor had the firm resolve to refuse to play character roles even when her career was at its lowest.

Holding one’s self-worth above level ground takes a lot of courage and today, the best of films are actor Trisha’s for the taking.

Combined with her voicing out when hit with misogyny or sexism, she proves that breaking stereotypes doesn’t happen by chance.

It takes a woman twice as much perseverance, patience, and courage to first live her life in the public eye, yet maintain a sure-footed dignity about it.


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The sought-after actor

Trisha reinvented herself post-Ponniyin Selvan

Trisha reinvented her approach to film post-‘Ponniyin Selvan’. (Supplied)

It’s been 22 years since her debut as a heroine in Mounam Pesiyadhe (2002). Even as you’re reading this line, Trisha is shooting for Thug Life, directed by Mani Ratnam, with Kamal Haasan in the lead.

Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa (2010) recently completed 800 days of re-release and the euphoria created by Ghilli (2004) is the stuff of legends. Two days ago, it was 20 years of Saamy (2003).

Across these super-hit films from the past (and also the recent present), there is one common name—Trisha.

She was the top heroine in the pre-social media era and is still on top.

Redefining rules and being unaffected by any rumour/ scandal/ setback are two winning traits that one should accord Trisha.

It’s time she gave a TEDx talk on her secret recipe for how she maintains her peace when there is a heartbreak or career crisis. And of course, what did she tell herself that made her bounce back with twice as much strength?!

Trisha gave two standout performances in her Malayalam film Hey Jude (2018) and her villainous role in Kodi (2016), which may not have reached the same jubilant heights as Jessie (from Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa) or Jaanu (from 96).

Writers and directors think of actor Trisha when they want a girl next door with an extra dash of inner strength (remember the petite Dhanalakshmi asking for tea in the peak climax of Ghilli).

Some of her solo heroine roles didn’t quite make the mark (scripts failed her, writing for female leads and backing heroine-led films is still hard in Tamil cinema) but her “comeback” (a favourite industry word not mine!) as Vijay’s leading lady in Leo put her safely into the commercially viable list of names on a film.

She also had a multi-crore win just before Leo (2023) in Mani Ratnam’s hugely successful Ponniyin Selvan franchise.

Trisha gave her all to the character of Kundhavai in both parts. Authentic, smart, and a woman of resolve among men of might, Kundhavai was written by Kalki as a woman, who thwarted any conspiracy against the Chola kingdom.

Trisha’s enigmatic inner grace added much depth to this classic character of a lifetime.

It was evident that she had reinvented the way she chose characters and films post-Ponniyin Selvan (her movie list spans all languages) and how she carried herself during the promotion also won her new fans.

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Trisha’s off-screen persona

Trisha is fondly called Thalaivi by her fans

Trisha is fondly called ‘Thalaivi’ by her fans. (Instagram)

Trisha’s off-screen bonhomie with team Ponniyin Selvan, and her camaraderie with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, bereft of any “posture”, came across as genuinely friendly.

Trisha’s ability to maintain her equipoise at all times in public and not waste time in unnecessary bickering in private are key qualities that people who know her well swear by.

Her Instagram account has frequent such posts, along with ones of her Indie pets (the actor is an advocate for the Blue Cross) and pictures with her friends and family, and these moments, make her “real” offscreen.

Trisha has faced all such demons head-on, with a whole lot of resilience and power. For a girl who debuted as just another “friend for the heroine” (Jodi, 1999), as a teenager in modelling (and won Ms Chennai), and who didn’t have any splashing debut with any star-son, Trisha worked her way to becoming a “heartthrob”.

It’s magnificent when a woman is not necessarily a 20-year-old damsel when retaining this heartthrob status.

Ghilli not only placed Vijay on top of the star ladder but also put Trisha as its queen.

I recall director Dharani telling me that Trisha is the “Ghilli (an ace, rock star, add more similar adjectives) in real life”.

The ability to cut out the noise and focus on her inner music will keep Trisha as the “Thalaivi” of her fans for another 40 years to come!

(Views expressed here are personal.)

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