Bollywood Baatein: Creative women get a raw deal

In an industry where men and women work together sometimes from the same home, can women be considered equal to men?

Bollywood actress Taapsee Pannu (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@filmfare)
Bollywood actress Taapsee Pannu (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@filmfare)

Subhash K Jha

Many years ago, did you see the triumphant look in Kathryn Bigelow’s eyes when she walked past her ex-husband James Cameron to collect the award for best director which Cameron so wanted? And she did it on Women’s Day. What a victory for women in the entertainment business!

Back home, Asha Parekh is her deceased parent’s only child. One of the reasons she never married was because she feared the husband would not allow her to look after her old and ailing father after her mother’s death.

Flash-forward to aaj ki nifty nari. Every time I see Taapsee Pannu walk up for an award as a woman-achiever, get written about buying a car or a home for her parents, see her walk proudly, confidently and unapologetically with her man into a room filled with prying eyes, I smile and silently applaud.

Taapsee doesn’t need to sacrifice her love-life to look after her parents. Until some years ago our actresses had to hide their boyfriends, husbands, pregnancies, drinks and other normal things which were seen to hamper a woman’s career.

Babita and Randhir Kapoor sired two daughters, both superstars in their own right. But the other women in the Kapoor khandan have not been that fortunate. They have either retired from the limelight or never had a proper taste of it.

In an industry where men and women work together sometimes from the same home, can women be considered equal to men? I am not too sure.

The last female star who commanded a fee equal to her male counterparts was Hema Malini. Hema could not only command a fortune, she could also bail out the sagging careers of fallen stars like Manoj Kumar in Sanyasi and Rajesh Khanna in Prem Nagar.

After forty years of movie direction, Aparna Sen made her Hindi film. Sen’s The Rapist is a stunning film that will finally celebrate the director’s pan-India appeal.

Bhavna Talwar
Bhavna Talwar

The exceptionally talented director Bhavna Talwar directed a rugged and gender-free film on religious discrimination, Dharm. When it was unfairly treated and denied the right to be an Oscar contender for foreign film, she questioned the decision of the people who sent another film instead of hers.

Bhavna was advised not to take on the mighty male Moghuls of moviemaking. “You won’t get another producer,” she was warned. Bhavna Talwar followed her conscience. She has just completed her second feature film.

Kalpana Lajmi who made a couple of very strong feminist statements would say making a film with a male producer was like getting raped. A bit drastic, that one. But women in pursuit of filmmaking ambitions often end up struggling to have their say.

But where do women directors go? I know of very few women as spirited and vibrant Sushmita Sen. Many years ago, her sprawling multi-storeyed office was a beehive of activity. Several professionals, academicians, accountants, artistes and artisans were preparing her directorial debut. Yes, Sushmita was going to make Jhansi Ki Rani. It never happened. She can deny it as much as she likes, but it’s because she’s a woman and therefore susceptible to succumbing to emotional pressures over her creative urges. The people she depended on let her down.

(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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