Mumbai :Filmmaker MILAN LUTHRIA tells SURABHI RAWAT that it was perhaps his DIRTY PICTURE that emboldened the industry to put their money on women-centric films, confident of the returns.
The portrayal of women in Hindi films has changed from women earlier being portrayed only as eye candy to now with films experimenting with their different facets; consider your film ‘The Dirty Picture’ too. What do you think has been the trigger behind this?
Perhaps it began with my film (‘The Dirty Picture’). I mean, I can speak for myself that I was bored of this mask that we were wearing – or were forced to wear and hide behind – that women are uni-directional, that they can be understood or portrayed in only one way. I think women, just like any other human being, are complex, very multifaceted, and extremely interesting to explore. I think there is a certain kind of fear that has been inculcated in filmmakers about not crossing the line where women are concerned. Over the years I think society, our own censorship, culture, everything has geared up to say that you can’t cross a certain line when it comes to women which means that we would never have evolved (in our thoughts), we would have been in the same place… I think exploring various dimensions of a woman, their sexuality—there is nothing to wrong in it! But it is almost like a stigma that anybody who goes close to that is a pervert or is shameless or has loose values or is being exploitative to make money.
I think there is a sense of guilt which was not there in the days of Khajuraho. I mean, people have expressed themselves in the past, considering Draupadi who had five husbands, or various other aspects of art and literature and astrology. But somehow we succumbed to the pressures and I think it’s not right to suppress anything in society. I think we should be free to express what we want to express and what we want to explore as only then can a society mature, and we as individuals mature.
With ‘Queen’, ‘Mardaani’, ‘Bobby Jasoos’ coming out last year do you think the trend of women-centric films is picking up in Bollywood?
Yeah, definitely… Maybe ‘Dirty Picture’ started the trend where people were not afraid to put their money on a woman protagonist and be confident that they will get returns; and it’s healthy! It provides for a different kind of movie!
But do you think that Bollywood is largely still hesitant to this idea?
Yes, there is hesitation. It is a male dominated industry where the numbers are much larger whereas women-centric films are sometimes made at a lower cost. But at least it is possible to do it. I mean, it’s no longer impossible to make them. Studios, distributors are backing these women-centric films and putting their money into them. The audiences are responding well too. So, at the end of the day, it all comes down to good storytelling… If the film is interesting, if it is well made, then there are people out there who want that content. A lot of television shows are driven by women. So many shows are made by women, they are watched by women—it’s a very basic fact which we haven’t understood for a long time. You know, we kept going in one direction of hero-centric films but then this whole thing opened up and people realised that you can make films differently as well.
Talking of female protagonists, which women-centric film is your favourite?
It’s difficult to say (thinks for long)… the obvious example would be ‘Mother India’. Films like ‘Sujata’, ‘Bandini’, the old ‘Khamoshi’, these are all very beautifully executed films in their times. ‘Arth’ too comes to the mind. These are, I think the big ones.
There are actresses who go beyond just being pretty faces. They are able to connect in a very different way from their contemporaries. So it’s a very long list. We have people like Waheeda Rehman, Nargis, Sharmila Tagore, Rekha, Vidya, Kajol… these are the women who have had much deeper impact than just being superstars.
Currently Kangana Ranaut and Deepika Padukone have definitely done well with their art. Whether it be Kangana in ‘Queen’ or Deepika in ‘Cocktail’, they have made brave choices and done very, very interesting work.