Arts & Culture

Women Behind the Camera: Zooming the Lens towards the Creators

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Not just monotonously draped women in Sarees and custom roles designed by Men, women craft their own niche on the Indian Celluloid perfectly and permeably.

Ever since the ‘release’ of Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love and Fire in 1996, stirred rows of controversies among the audience, the population was laid exposed to multiple cultures that were about to ferment in the decades to follow. The perception of women in Indian imagination sought to have a great thrust now, but what was more monumental were the two directors – Mira Nair and Deepa Mehta, who re-narrativised the ‘Bhartiya Nari and Sabhyata‘ in a post modern view.

The global egalitarian debate has pulled the female representatives at multiple fronts to collect together for achieving gender neutral objectives in – politics, business, sports and perhaps the most important the arts and entertainment industry; without any doubt the women in entertainment business exercise the highest influence and its Indian counterparts are no different, in recent times Indian celebrities have found a global following and new icons are emerging every year.

The Indian Film Industry occupies a central space in every household and it’s Pan India reception makes it even more desirable and challenging. The glamorous lead women over the years have instilled a feeling of aspiration among many young girls who dream to get a slice of ‘The Dream Pie’ and this in fact has turned true in many cases. From Durgabai Kamat to Rekha, Waheeda Rehman to Madhuri Dixit, Shabana Azmi to Priyanka Chopra many female leads have made the marks on the world memory, apart from lead actresses, playback singing seemed to be the only alternative for women for many years in this male dominated industry. But, in the last two decades the industry has witnessed many talented women who have impressed everyone with their skillful exuberance of potential as directors, screenwriters, music directors, cinematographers, etc.

My discussion on the professional female enterprise in Indian film industry has a tripartite perception – firstly, as an avid Cinemaphile general output; secondly in terms of the political depictions, thirdly as a demarcation between the West and the East.

Women making Films not your Food

1926 release ‘Bulbul Ae Paristaan’ saw a major moment in Indian Cinema when Fatima Begum became the first female writer, producer and director. Female Filmmakers like Kalpana Lajmi,  Sai Pranjpaye and Tanuja Chandra might be alien to many but their productions ‘Katha’, ‘Rudaali’ or ‘Dushman’ have captured an audience of its own. Similarly, Aparna Sen and Sumitra Bhave have successfully exploited Bengali and Marathi regional cinema with films like ’36 Chowringhee Lane.’

To reiterate the genius of Deepa Mehta and Mira Nair are beyond words, their movies have garnered critical acclaim not only in India but globally with topics that were really necessary.

Promising female directors like Meghna Gulzar of ‘Raazi’, Kiran Rao of ‘Dhobi Ghat’, Reema Kagti of ‘Talaash’, Nandita Das of ‘Manto’, Zoya Akhtar of ‘Gullyboy’, Farah Khan of ‘Main Hoon Na’, Gauri Shinde of ‘Dear Zindagi’, Shonali Bose of ‘The Sky is Pink’, Alankrita Shrivastav of ‘Lipstick Under my Burkha’ or Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari of ‘Bareily ki Barfi’ have been received well both by audience and critics and have severely diversified into script writing, editing, short films and online content.

Instigators of New Ideas

Female filmmakers have brought a range of topics like Surrogacy, sexuality, same sex relationships and horrors of patrirarchy and misogyny to attention. Depiction of lives of a lesbian relationship in ‘Fire’, a widow’s condition in ‘Water’, mental health in ‘Dear Zindagi’ or surrogacy in ‘Filhaal’, the women have hit the bell hard for others; parallely movies like  ‘Firaaq’ and ‘Salaam Bombay’ comment about the socio political condition of India in a sharp tone.

Not just Makers

Women are known for their adorning skills, their presentation has nuances of meticulousness which has been visible in recent times not just as directors or filmmakers but also in music production like Sneha Khanwalkar and Bombay Jayshree or the lyrics business like Anvita Dutt Guptan and Kausar Munir. Where Choreographers like Farah Khan, Vaibhavi Merchant and Geeta Kapur have grooved their way, designers like Niharika Khan, Anaita Shroff Adjania and Bhanu Athaiya have marked their own style.

Cinematographers like Priya Seth, Fowzia Fathima and Archana Borhade have captured stories that must hit film Critics like Subhash Jha hard when he comments as, “It comes as a surprise that the film is shot by female cinematographer Priya Seth. The images her camera captures are rugged, virile and predominantly masculine.”

The Critical Women

Nikhat Kazmi to Anupama Chopra and Namrata Joshi, women have been acclaimed critics for years, reviewing movies and it’s various aspects they have derived the opinions for the Indian Masses particularly and successfully.

It won’t be enough to say that these women are merely talked here for the sake of being one but particularly to affirm the success of these women in a misogynistic environment where their efforts have striven hard in order to see results. The male dominated land had to send out a message for the viewers who voraciously consume what is screened and pretended by their stars on and off the screens and in a state, where the patriarch and opressing society needs to acknowledge these women substantially.

Image Credits: ForbesIndia


Faizan Salik

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Journalism has been called the “first rough draft of history”. D.U.B may be termed as the first rough draft of DU history. Freedom to Express.

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