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Female directors on the rise!

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According to a recent report conducted by the Centre for Study of Women in Television and Film, the number of women directors in Hollywood is declining and their percentage has halved since 1998. While no such study has been carried out in Bollywood yet, it is obvious that the scenario is quite the opposite here.

The number of women filmmakers has shot up in B-Town over the past decade averaging at around six every year. Anusha Rizvi (Peepli Live) believes that the ratio of women directors is still quite small in comparison to the males, but it is an increasing tribe.

Of the women, by the women, for the women?
No any more! Aurat hi aurat ke dard ko samajh sakti hai! While this adage still rings true, female filmmakers have started to look beyond women-centric subjects or socially relevant topics, and have moved into mainstream, which makes them more appealing to producers. Anusha says, “The misconception of women making women-centric films only has been washed away by the commercial success of directors like Farah Khan, Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti, who have completely broken away from the kind of films that were associated with women directors. The success they have got has definitely changed the perception of women filmmakers.” 

Farah showed the way
Trade analyst Komal Nahta too says that a change in perception of female directors happened post-Farah’s Main Hoon Na (2004) and Om Shanti Om (2007). He says, “Not that there weren’t women directors dabbling in comedies or entertainers before that, but the kind of success Farah got, it brought in producers’ faith in women directors.” According to Farah, producers today are more willing to put their money on women filmmakers than they were a few years ago, “I would not say that the industry is biased or is gender-based, but yes, it is economics-driven. So whether you are a woman or a man, if you can deliver a hit, you are in! Not just direction, today there are women in almost every department from editing to costumes to screenwriting, to hair to make-up. Somewhere it has also to do with the fact that women are overall ready to come out and explore these areas which were so far considered male bastions.” Meghna Gulzar (Filhaal, Just Married) adds, “It is easier to approach producers, and today they do not always assume that if it’s a woman filmmaker, the film will be woman-centric.”

No gender bias
Tanuja Chandra (Dushman) says, “The Hindi film industry is a largely secular, unbiased place and I’ve rarely faced problems due to my gender. Everyone here is welcome to make movies, the overriding rule being, that funds go where the commercial proposals are. Yes, at times perceptions that women make more artistic or niche films do come into play and since this view exists mostly amongst producers, it makes it somewhat tough to find funding. But it’s not impossible to get producers for a project that’s unusual yet entertaining, with a competitive budget, or the participation of stars.”

What’s sex got to do with it?
...Is the stand Kiran Rao (Dhobi Ghat) and Reema Kagti (Talaash) have always maintained. Reema had earlier said, “I have never had issues of accountability on basis of my gender. It all depends if you can extract the quality of work from your team that you want to define your film with.” Kiran confesses that she would probably still make the same films in the same way even if she was a man. “Here your creativity speaks, not your sex. Right now it’s a conducive time for newbies — filmmakers and even actors. Whether woman or man, just doesn’t matter. It’s no different here than any other industry. It is about talent getting respect, nothing else.”

Audience no bar!
As far as the audience is concerned, they couldn’t care less if the maker is a woman or a man as long as the film is paisa vasool, says Meghna, “Yes, perhaps there was a time when it felt like the audience would think twice about going for a film being directed by a woman, but then there were men who were making brilliant women-based films, so I think it is irrespective of the gender and just the kind of films a name is associated with. Tanuja adds, “Audiences are quite unbiased. A film can be directed by a man, woman, a veteran, a first-timer, whoever, it doesn’t matter; if viewers like a film, whether it’s considered a good or a bad film, they will make it successful.” Komal further explains, “The audience go in to see the actors and a story and a good story told whether by a man or a woman is not something that they are much concerned about.

Star connection
Getting in big stars too seems easier today than it was a decade ago. But Komal insists that it had nothing to do with star egos about being directed by a woman. The reason, he explains, was simply that the senior guard of women filmmakers — Aparna Sen, Kalpana Lajmi, Deepa Mehta, amongst others — were largely perceived to only make women-centric films or adapt the middle path cinema, or art-house films. “So, while they were considered good filmmakers, their films were not commercially viable so the stars stayed away. But now all that has changed.” 

More avenues
Meghna reveals that today it is easier for a newbie to find a platform. “Of course the struggle is still there, but it has nothing to do with your gender. Producers take you seriously no matter what your sex is, if you have a viable project. Now it’s up to the women to come forward. It’s also easier as there is more respectability in the profession, also there are far more schools and courses available that can guide the aspirants through the right channel.” 

Way forward
Tanuja says, “It’s too early to form a thesis about women directors here because they’re still too few in number, but the fact that they’re increasing is an encouraging one, and that’s probably because the film industry itself has grown in size, generating much more money than it used to. It’s simple really: The higher the number of women directors, the more the possibility of profit from their films, thereby leading to increased funds. Women need to direct movies in large numbers, and they themselves must take the initiative. My personal opinion is that there are countless stories of women out there waiting to be told. These are Indian stories, of Indian women, their experiences, their longings. These are as yet unheard voices. Surely, opening this treasure-box can only be a good thing.” 

Reality check
Vinta Nanda feels that TV has been a great propeller, but is quick to add that to some extent we are still rotating in the same circle. “Things have changed and there are a lot more women directors on the scene today, but when you count them there are still very few who have reached a certain level like Farah or Zoya. Most others are in the Rs10-15 crore bracket and it shows that producers still don’t trust women filmmakers as much. The industry continues to be male dominated, but yes the change has begun and the women filmmakers are pushing their way forward. They are baby steps, but in the right direction.” She adds that the fact that the industry itself is growing in magnitude and there is a demand for fresh talent also works in the favour of women. “That is an advantage for us.”

 

Courtesy:  DNA