A strong voice will be heard, no matter what

Vinaya Patil
Monday, 11 September 2017

Bollywood actors and filmmakers discuss the voice of women in Indian cinema over the ages, and whether it is heard or suppressed

Bollywood is much more conservative than it looks. Majority of the fraternity is sceptical of experimenting in cinema,” said the bold Pooja Bhatt when asked about doing off-beat cinema at a discussion session at Pune International Literary Festival (PILF) on Saturday. This session titled ‘Voice of Women in Movies’ was moderated by Priyanka Sinha Jha and attended by writer-director Ashwini Iyer Tiwari, and actors Pooja Bhatt, Divya Dutta and Kirti Kulhari.

Art in any form has always been the depiction of society and vice versa while also being a catalyst for change. Cinema is one such strong medium which is not merely entertainment but also a tool for transformation. “This is such an era where there are amazing characters built for women. Movies now don’t just require a good-looking heroine but an actor,” said Divya describing the current trend in Bollywood.

The Nil Battey Sannata fame director Ashwini added that films are now not centred around a star. “Movies are now also being identified by their director’s and writer’s name,” she said. Pink fame Kirti shared a similar opinion saying, “With Pink, we actually understood the power of writing and story-telling.”

When asked about the voices of women in movies, all the ladies unanimously said that one needs to be strong, relevant and honest enough while speaking and it’s the only way one can be heard. “You have to be smart. If you got to fight with the big bad guys, you must beat them at their game,” Pooja said, suggesting that one needs to be successful monetarily too, to be able to have a say in things, and be in a position to command respect and bring about a revolution. “To survive in the business, you need to be thick-skinned, be able to laugh at yourself and make decent profits,” Pooja added.

She said that she was initially told to keep her opinions to herself if she wanted to make it big in this industry. “But I beat these people and now when I am asked about making commercial movies, I simply answer, ‘I have won two National Awards. Next question please’,” the actor said.
Taking it further from there, Divya too said that hard-earned success tastes good and it is beautiful to do what you want and be heard.

When asked of the success-determining factor of a movie, Ashwini, who has received much appreciation for her latest Bareilly ki Barfi, said that the success of films doesn’t depend on the 100-crore mark. “It depends on whether the movie is well appreciated by the audience and whether it has made profits against the investment,” she explained, adding, “It is important to tell different stories.”

We need to wake up from years of stereotypes, the ladies said. “We still can’t accept our women expressing lust and being in-charge of their sexuality. We are uncomfortable with women making choices,” she sighed. But when it comes to walking the talk, it’s not such a cakewalk to be able to make these choices either, she added. “You have to constantly fight prejudices at a hundred levels. Movies without the stereotypes and set formulae rarely find financiers,” she explained. “It’s a road littered with failures, insecurities, and prejudices,” both Pooja and Divya said.

The ray of hope is however new-age filmmakers who are throwing the formula into the trash bin and coming up with content-oriented movies. It is the time for a marriage of commercial and parallel cinema, Divya believes, and stop compartmentalising movies. “It is also the audience’s responsibility to grow up and promote such cinema,” Kirti said, adding, “Make the right choices as an audience.”

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