Alankrita Shrivastava’s film Lipstick Under My Burkha, created a storm and the zing hasn’t left our minds yet. We want to see more of this feisty director, but first let’s hear all about her vision for the Indian woman on reel and in real
Everywhere I go, I am often told how glad I should be that the dynamics are changing, there are more women on the sets, and in addition, a lot more films are being heralded by women. How does that make me feel? Disgruntled! It is nothing but an illusion to assume that the dynamics are changing, that the number of women directors are increasing. It might seem like that because a handful of women directors have suddenly come into the limelight. But if you do the math, you will know that nothing really has changed. There are a thousand movies being made, and hundreds of new names coming up. Amongst those the women are still few and far in between. It is still work in progress. I am in no way trying to take away from the progress thus far, there is no harm in celebrating either but let’s first accept that it is but a small baby step towards the bigger picture, our so-called progress, is in fact a miniscule attempt in the right direction. We need a lot more women behind the camera. We do need the numbers.
It is only when we have the numbers will the acceptance be on a strong footing. What is needed is equal representation. We are really way behind schedule when it comes to that. Once we have equality, no one will bat an eye if we have move films with women as the main protagonists. Now-a-days frankly, it has become fashionable to tell people that we are making a woman-oriented film. No one ever asks a director if he is yet again making a man-centric film? Or do they?
When I start of working on a film, I am not thinking if this is a male-centric film or a female-centric film? I am not thinking about whether it will make the audience happy or make the producers happy. I am thinking about the story. I am concentrating my energies on the characters and the story that they are telling me. I might be wrong in doing so, but I cannot think about what an audience wants and make a film according to that. For me it is a personal journey with the characters I am penning. Also once the film is made, it is an entity by itself. Even then, I cannot possibly manipulate how the audience is feeling about it.
I have come to accept the fact that ours is a very cinema illiterate nation. The level of education is not very high across the country. Also the kind of content that Indian audiences are used to consume is often playing to the lowest common denominator. I feel if you want the change you have to be the change. If the makers don’t push the envelope we will continue making the same stuff over and over again.
Of course, there are economical constraints, filmmaking is expensive and one needs to recover the money you have invested but one has to stop using economics as an excuse. For too long we have excused everything in the name of commerce. We make bad films because they work, we objectify women because that’s what the audience wants… and so on these are nothing but excuses. Last year for instance, we did have a Hindi Medium, Tumhari Sulu, Bareily Ki Barfi etc…. other than the big guns like Golmaal Again and Tiger Zinda Hai, these are films that did well at the box office, there is an audience for them. So while the onus of making a film hit or flop falls on the audience, they have already proved that they are ready for more.
But are we as filmmakers willing to scratch the surface? A lot of times, big filmmakers claim to be making a film on a strong woman protagonist, but when you see it, you, realist that he hasn’t quite scratched the surface. For instance, two of my favourite films of the year gone by Pink and Dangal, were both touted as being woman-oriented sagas, but were they?
While Pink was a wonderful film, it said just one thing to me – one needs someone like Amitabh Bachchan to out there and give the girls their justice. Dangal, yet another film I loved but all through the movie, all the girls were doing is trying to fulfil their father’s wish. What do you when you scratch the surface off movies like this – a patriarchal society, if women want to excel, that’s alright but they will need the support of a man.
If you see an English Vinglish – Gauri Shinde’s film or even a Zoya Akhtar film, you will see the difference with which they have handled their characters. Margarita With A Straw was also one such film. I guess, there truly is something called ‘lived experience’ which by the virtue of being a woman, we female directors have. I wouldn’t say that all male-directors cannot be sensitive towards woman, we have all enjoyed Satyajit Ray’s Charulata, haven’t we?
I will say this again, if you want change – be the change. And that goes for the media too. They for instance have to stop calling every film with female protagonist – a female centric film. Female centric is not even a genre, the film could be a thriller or a drama or whatever else, it leans towards but don’t put it in a box and label it ‘woman-centric film’. Don’t get me wrong, I am not blaming the media as such, I am just enumerating all the factors that are posing a threat to our dreams.