An ever-growing voice in the Indian film setup is that of Women Film makers’ who seek a gender neutral recognition that does not appreciate their efforts in a back-handed manner – “For a woman, it’s a great achievement,” as though any man could become a director or an editor.
With the rise of right wing activism in the recent years that strives to propagate the patriarchal domination of past millenniums, there is an urgent need of stories that are told from a female perspective that has been stifled so far.
Meghna Gulzar’s Raazi is a great example of historical drama that chronicles the life of an Indian spy in Pakistan, who happens to be a woman. The fact that Alia Bhatt’s character becomes a spy upon her father’s wishes is a cruel and honest representation of the patriarchy that is embed into the Indian society so much so that we have even stopped noticing it. By telling the story from her perspective, we get to know the emotions she goes through along with the troubles she encounters, all away from her homeland and amidst a nation full of enemies. She is a personification of a Hero that dons a Salwar Kameez.
It would be a severe case of gender insensitivity if we only spoke of films that are female-driven, as women do make films that don’t necessarily talk about their issues. Some of the films that grabbed the attention of the movie-goers in the recent times are Village Rockstars and Manto directed by Rimaand Nandita Das respectively. The former being India’s Official entry to the 91st Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Language film category. Zoya Akhthar’s Zindagi Milegi Na Dobara is a powerful narrative that delves deep into the human relationships and the complications that arise from them, which won several accolades.
Another Assamese female film director Rajni Basumatary’s film Raag has characters from both the genders experiencing turmoil in their careers, relationships and in general, life. A testament to the talent in regional cinema, this movie is a quintessential indie movie that has all the characteristics of a great film. One of the many forgotten or unreleased films, Ballad of Rustom directed by Ajita Suchitra Veera has been highly acclaimed but failed to secure a release in the Indian market despite it being one of the contenders for India’s Official entry for the 86th Academy Awards. Although it might take some time to find mainstream audience for these kind of films, we can safely assume that the tide is changing, especially with the emergence of female directors not only in Bollywood but in regional cinema as well. Anjali Menon and Vidhu Vincent are some of the few directors who found success in South India, who make films on a wide spectrum of issues.
An inspiration to the modern woman, Anushka Sharma started her own production house Clean Slate Films in the peak of her career and struck gold with her first film as a producer NH10 in which she was also the lead actor. With films like Aisha Khoobsurat and Veere Di Wedding Rhea Kapoor younger daughter of actor Anil Kapoor has made her mark with the female characters leading the movies exuding confidence and buoyancy at their every step. In the South, budding producer duo Priyanka & Swapna Dutt have made an impression with their bilingual film Mahanati/Nadigaiyar Thilagam, which is based on one of the most prolific actresses of South India, if not the entire country, Savitri.
We are witnessing a surge of women on film sets, with them foraying into different aspects of film making other than the above two mentioned, which is a welcome sign for the new era of cinema. Anjuli Shukla created history when she became the first and till date, only female cinematographer to win the National Award for her work on Malayalam film Kutty Srank. Noted editors Aarti Bajaj and Deepa Bhatia have displayed their craft in several films so far. And the list goes on… as it must.
I envision a reality in the near future, where the term ‘First woman to…’ are no longer in use.
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