Lady directors in Bollywood: Filmmaking beyond all sex

New Delhi, Sep 10 (Calcutta Tube) Bollywood, for long considered a male-dominated industry, is welcoming women directors – if the success of Anusha Rizvi’s ‘Peepli Live’ and Rajshree Ojha’s ‘Aisha’ is any indication. Women are stepping behind the camera to call the shots.

‘It is not about being a woman director but about directing your thoughts. Look at me, I didn’t come with anything (in the industry). It was a challenge to prove yourself. But I actually never had any issues. I faced the usual trouble any director would face,’ Ojha told IANS.

‘I had already worked so much in America so the issue for me was understanding how to go about it (in India). But that’s all a part of the industry. It is not gender-centric,’ added the one-film old Ojha who idolises Satyajit Ray and Ang Lee.

Her ‘Aisha’, a modern-day adaptation of Jane Austen’s British novel ‘Emma’, starred Sonam Kapoor and Abhay Deol.

‘Earlier women were not venturing out behind the camera; so it was thought to be male territory. But now more of them are learning the technicalities and it is a very good thing for the industry,’ trade analyst Taran Adarsh told IANS.

‘A lot of movies are being planned out by a lot of women directors in Bollywood. They are in fact venturing into all aspects of cinema today.’

‘At the end of the day, it is not about being a man or woman but about telling a good story. If they have one, nothing else matters,’ he added.

Looking back there have been only a handful of them in India like Sai Paranjpaye, Kalpana Lazmi, Aparna Sen and Tanuja Chandra and some based abroad like Deepa Mehta, Mira Nair and Gurinder Chadha.

However, the new wave has seen emerging endeavours from women directors like Meghna Gulzar, Farah Khan, Reema Kagti, Sooni Taraporewala, Leena Yadav, Pooja Bhatt, Bhavna Talwar and Zoya Akhtar.

Actress Revathy is lauded for making the first Bollywood film on AIDS, ‘Phir Milenge’, starring Shilpa Shetty, Salman Khan and Abhishek Bachchan.

Actress Nandita Das, who won laurels for her directorial debut ‘Firaaq’, told IANS: ‘When you are directing, you don’t see yourself as a woman. You are just directing. Women face challenges in any profession. There are things like people using bad language, etc., but when one is working on a film, one does not concentrate on other aspects.’

Nandita is now going to wield the megaphone for a movie on human trafficking.

Earlier producers were reportedly reluctant to hand over the reins to them. But these days a female director finds support from big names.

Journalist-turned-director Anusha Rizvi recently set the box office on fire with Aamir Khan produced ‘Peepli Live’, a political satire about farmer suicides in India.

‘The thing is that women suffer in any industry. This may not happen consciously or unconsciously, but you have to accept that and fight it. It is a social problem. It is not a problem of the industry per se. But when you are being targeted like that, it is purely a power equation,’ Rizvi told IANS.

‘(As for me) I haven’t gone through the regular grind that a lot of people go through in the industry. It has been a different kind of structure that I’ve been through which has no particular consideration about a woman. I only approached one producer (unlike others). So it was very different for me. There is no gender- centric thing in this case,’ she added.

Nandita is, however, hopeful more women will don the director’s hat in time to come.

‘Finally, there are visibly more women who are coming into direction. Many doors have opened. It will slowly grow. It is definitely more than before, but not enough,’ she said.

Aamir Khan’s wife, Kiran Rao, has also gone behind the camera to make ‘Dhobhi Ghat’ and avant-garde actress Deepti Naval has also turned director with her poetic debut, ‘Do Paise Ki Dhoop, Chaar Aane Ki Baarish’.

(Robin Bansal can be contacted at

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