What Women Want?
We caught up with women from cinema to discuss their expectations when they entered the industry, what took them by surprise, and what they want in terms of representation in cinema. A lot of whats!
It’s that time of the year once again. That time when women get flooded with congratulatory wishes, and a barrage of acknowledgments of equality pour in. While the day is predominantly observed to celebrate the achievements of women on a social, economic, cultural, and political level, let’s also take a moment to understand how inclusivity in cinema has evolved over the years. We are at a time when the importance of representation is finally seen in various avenues of cinema, both in front of and behind the camera. With representation leading to relatability in cinema, we saw more real women characters deal with real situations with real-life consequences. This can also be attributed to the increase in women behind the camera, who facilitated the improvement of the characters women played in front of it.
Team CE spoke to some prominent women who earned a name for themselves because of their sheer determination, hard work, and of course... talent!
(Editor- Hey Sinamika, Ammu, Kaiyum Kalavum)
10 years ago when I entered the industry, I did not have any expectations. I did not know any insiders. Whatever I got to know about the field was from people around me. They said that it is not a great place for women. But fortunately, I had good experiences. However, there were hardly any women in the technical departments. Now, that void is being filled with many women heading the teams and telling stories. Though many women learn Visual Communication courses in college with a dream to enter the film industry, not many turn up. I wish more women have the fortune of having as good an experience as I had.
(Partner & Creative Director, AVM Productions | Producer and Creative Director of Tamilrockerz)
I come from a place like AVM, which holds a great legacy of creating iconic films. But as a young producer, I wanted to tell stories like they’d never been told before. I interact with many brilliant creative minds, both young and old, to push boundaries for better, edgy, and entertaining content. I am also creating a space for more talented women to shine, both behind and in front of the camera. My goal is to tell compelling stories through a female protagonist. It's important to me that stories should be told through the creative perspective of women.
(Production Designer -- Pisasu, Charlie, and Vanamagan)
When I started off in 2009, I knew we'd be in the minority, but I didn't expect to be just one of the 3-4 women on set. There were no restrooms for the women in technical departments. I remember knocking on the doors of nearby houses to use their facilities. Now, it is getting better. I think more women at the back end will resolve such concerns and create an empathetic atmosphere. Also, women technicians are only considered for romcom or women-centric films. We could also do those big commercial films. This existing gender disparity should change. The industry should value our skills and not differentiate on gender.
(director and producer of Oram Po, Vikram Vedha, Suzhal)
When I started out, there were very few women assistant directors, which sometimes made it easy to get a job. Initially, it used to be a bit awkward when you will be segregated into teams, which will mostly be filled with men. But you forget being a woman after a point. Honestly, I was surprised how we are often not taken too seriously. In a set of 200 people, other than the actors, there will be almost no women. It was a little overwhelming, but you get over it. We need more representation across departments, especially on the production and creative side.
(Cinematographer of Cinema Bandi, Ammu)
Entering cinema, I expected fair acceptance and equality. Although it hasn't been a completely wholesome experience, I've had good days. Of course, people see you with respect, but women are not welcomed as equally as men. If a male DOP yells, it is acceptable, but when it is a woman, she is labelled arrogant. If she doesn’t, then she is said to not have any leadership qualities. Once when I was shooting for Cinema Bandi, someone asked how my husband puts up with such behaviour. Such flippancy has to reduce. In fact, every DOP should have at least one woman assistant.
(Composer of Aruvi, Seththumaan)
Having more women composers is a change that will happen over time. Cinema should become a gender-neutral space. I don’t want to be here because I am a woman, but because I am good at my work. When I attended my film premieres, people assumed I was an actor. I enjoy that sudden change of reaction when they realise I am a composer. Films are too powerful and should be handled with a conscience. Filmmakers should be accountable for what and how they create content. The male gaze has to change. May there be more films where we question gender norms.
(Cinematographer of Abhiyum Naanum, Vaanam Kottatum, Hey Sinamika)
When I entered the industry 10 years back, I expected to get my breakthrough a lot sooner. However, I realised that it takes a long time to get there. Of course, men have an arduous journey too, but it is a hard-hitting fact that it is tougher for women. What came as a surprise to me, in a good way, was once the crew knew my talent, my gender didn't matter to them. To make cinema an inclusive place, it is imperative that talent is the only yardstick for judging a technician, and never gender.
(Lyricist: Naan Nee, Madras; Maya Nadhi, Kabali; Thaabangale, 96)
I had no expectations when I entered the field because I came into the film industry by chance. Primarily a poet, I made my debut in Madras. Over time, I learned that lyric writing is not only about the words. Many factors like the meter, the emotion and the message conveyed by the lyrics are also important. I have reworked many of my lyrics based on the director's inputs. Speaking of 'women in cinema', the first thing that comes to our mind are the heroines. I wish the term 'women in cinema' gradually include those behind the screen as well.
(Costume designer of Mugamoodi, Anel Mele Panithuli, Indian 2)
When I first started designing costumes for films, I was most excited about the journey of creating a character through my designs. The timelines (deadlines) in the industry were a sweet surprise. Directors suggest changes to the design and expect a reworked design within a short span of time. However, over the years, this practice has helped me deliver quality results within the stipulated time. As Kamal Haasan sir often says, 'There is nothing called perfection, and there is only excellence.' For my own growth and development, I strive to move forward in that pursuit of excellence.
(With inputs from Anusha Sundar, Chandhini R, Jayabhuvaneshwari B)