Celebrating Women’s Day, Everyday!
They are fighting stereotypes, breaking barriers and racing ahead to greatness. Moving forward is an ongoing process; constantly battling perceptions and preconceived notions is something women are used to in all areas of life. Despite this constant battle, women in the Indian film industry are truly rocking it and winning every day. This Women’s day, Pandolin caught up with a number of women who are an integral part of Hindi cinema to know what ‘being a woman’ in this industry is all about.
Women don’t feel the bias anymore, and that is very encouraging. “A film set is extremely gender neutral” says director, Meghna Gulzar, something that she has maintained time and again. “Whether we are men or women working, the hardships are the same for everyone, there is no cushioning of the hard work that anyone has to do, whether it is the Assistant Directors team, the production design team, the DOP team, its completely gender neutral and I just love that.”
Editor Antara Lahiri adds, “I have encountered a lot of directors who have specifically wanted to work with a woman editor because there is a conception that woman editors are eventually more nurturing.”
There may not be too many women on set, but the ones who are, are challenging their situations and blazing forward. “If you are there to do a certain job or if you want any career as an option, regardless, of whether you are a man or a woman, challenges are going to be there. So the first thing one has to remember is that no matter what your gender is, it is going to be challenging.” Says Cinematographer Savita Singh. “When you have more challenges it makes you work harder, it makes you a better professional,” she adds.
When it comes to fighting stereotypes, Savita believes that “It is not exactly that grim a picture that one would like to paint, or think there is. The fact is that if women go to do anything, they will face a little bit of resistance”.
Many people believed that a female director would only make women-oriented films, movies that essentially only lean towards strong female leads. Meghna Gulzar believes that initially that’s the role she fit herself into. But now she attributes the breaking of stereotypes to Farah Khan, when it comes to direction, “The films that she makes don’t look like they have been made by a woman from any angle, they are not feminist or women-oriented at all. They are commercial, entertaining films; so that stereotype has been demolished and going forward a lot of other female directors have made films that are gender neutral, whether they are thrillers or socially relevant topics.”
In fact, today when women go out and do something that hasn’t been done before, instead of being faced with a sense of skepticism for their ability, people greet them with a sense of pride. While recently shooting in a Konkan village, Savita was working alone, with a handheld camera. People have complimented her with amazement in their eyes. “There was no sense of surprise or wonder or pity but a sense of pride,” says the cinematographer.
To reach that level of acceptance from society women have faced abundant criticism. But criticism is very important; when someone is hard on you, you work harder and hone your skills further. The most admirable criticism that Meghna holds dear is what Vishal Bhardwaj told her after Talvar, “I am not going to be easy on you when it comes to criticism, because I have seen what you are capable of and you should push yourself to reach that kind of excellence every time.”
These days many people are fearful of being critical of women as they feel that they might appear to be biased, or discouraging. But the truth is that women are all set to fly towards the sun and what they need is honest criticism as fuel and passion for what they do. Production Designer Boishali Sinha says, “I get motivation in every criticism & appreciation”.
They do believe that there are some changes that need to be brought into the industry’s way of functioning, and these are not limited to the women here, but to each and every individual on set. Costume Designer Subarna Ray Chaudhari believes that there is a divide when it comes to classes and positions in the industry. Currently she is working on an international project and is very impressed by how every one of the cast and crew interact with each other. “Here everyone eats together, works out together and they all sit in the office together; they treat people equally no matter what.” This attitude and behavioral change she believes should be brought into the Indian film industry as well. She believes that as an HOD she enjoys abundant perks and luxuries, but she says “I am not so active on set; my assistants are, so they should be given more than me.“
Savita wishes for a better quality of life in terms of the working hours, “A lot of men who work in the art or lights department have a very difficult and strenuous job. They don’t have any insurance, like a regular job or industry and that kind of support is very minimal. They don’t enjoy long term job and financial security.” She also believes, “This industry needs to be a lot more organized. People are really underpaid for the kind of work that they end up doing. Spot boys have the worst life. They start at three in the morning and get to sleep at three in the night. I really wonder when do they get the time to rest”.
Women in the Indian film industry are here to stay. They are reaching out in all directions, and are going to transform the functioning of the industry by concerning themselves with the well being of all. Its Women’s day everyday in this industry, and that’s what makes it a very Happy Women’s day!!
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