Shabana Azmi in a scene from Sai Paranjpye’s movie, Sparsh (Touch, 1980). If supertalented women like Sai Paranjpye and Chitra Palekar have to scrounge for funding to make films, there is something seriously wrong with the male order.
A group of women filmmakers and technicians gathered together for the launch of the Mumbai chapter of the international organization Women in Film and Television (WIFT), spearheaded by Petrina D’Rozario. The time does seem to be right, considering there is a rise in women working in the industry—apart from female actors, of course. There is a rising number of directors, writers, cinematographers, editors, choreographers, art directors, costume designers and other technicians, but the number is still small enough to warrant the formation of such a group.
Unless there is a family connection, it is still difficult for women to get a break as directors. If supertalented women like Sai Paranjpye and Chitra Palekar have to scrounge for funding to make films, there is something seriously wrong with the male order. It is an accepted rule that where there is power and money to be made, women have to work very hard to get a toe into the Men’s Club. And then work harder (to make more money) to prove that they deserve to be there. And if they fail, they are slammed much harder than men, and find it much more difficult to get back in. WIFT plans to offer support, mentorships, internships to aspiring women filmmakers, and if they actually manage to keep to their manifesto, they will be doing women a big service. Often, what affects women the most—especially if they do not belong to industry families—is working and struggling in isolation, and then finding a way to make the right connections, just to get their ideas heard. To actually get work is a different ballgame altogether.
Now, slowly, women are getting into less money/labour intensive fields that were not open to them earlier; however there are still too few women producers, hardly any female music directors and no fight composers. Some archaic rule still prevents women from being make-up artists in the industry, but maybe that’s about to change.
More and more women getting into film schools, which is also helping them break into the network of past graduates and making entry into the right field slightly easier, but the situation is still not ideal or too welcoming for women.
At the WIFT event, there was the inevitable question about “exploitation” and the “casting couch.” No matter how far women go and how high they fly, this is something they have to deal with on their own.