Collated by Ridhima Mangal
There was a time when Bollywood was a male centric industry. Actors dominated lead roles in the films and played the central characters in movies all the time. Also, the directors were mostly men. But over the last decade Indian Film industry has seen a change in this phenomenon.
The central subjects and lead characters of the films have sometimes moved to being female oriented. There has also come a new breed of female directors over the past few years, who are dominantly visible with their work and presence in the industry.
Directors like Zoya Akhtar, Farah Khan, Kiran Rao are the new gen female directors making a great mark with their work in the industry.
Zoya Akhtar once in an interview with a daily, recalled the story of the Steadicam operator on her first film, ‘Luck by Chance’. She narrated, “He had earlier worked with her younger brother, Farhan, a director-actor who was playing the lead role in my debut film. After each shot, he turned to Farhan instead of me to check if it was all right.”
The third time it happened, I could no longer stay silent. I took him aside and very politely told him, I am the director of the film. If you can adjust to that, it’s great. If not, we can’t work together.”
Upon this she recalls, “He got extremely flustered and said, ‘No, no, you are like my sister.’ And I cut him off right there. I said, ‘I’m not your sister, I’m your director. Can you handle it?’ He said he could, and we work together all the time now.”
Zoya is one of the many newly established female directors in Bollywood.
Bollywood has largely been a boys club behind the scenes, though women have been vital contributors in films by being editors, art directors, writers and producers in the last decade.
But unlike Hollywood, in Indian film industry, there are no studio-head equivalents of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s co-chairman Amy Pascal, or DreamWorks’ chief executive Stacey Snider.
In the past, female filmmakers were largely related to working on art-house films and smaller budgets movies. But now like Zoya there are a handful of other women who have cracked Bollywood’s glass ceiling by succeeding where it counts the most: the box office.
Zoya’s latest film ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’ won many accolades from audiences and critics. It has amassed huge collections at the Box Office in the first five weeks, making it one of the-biggest hits of the year.
Critics swooned over the crackling dialogue, the slow-paced but clever script and the brilliant cinematography.
In recent times, the first contemporary female filmmaker to break the all-male dominant trends at the box office was Farah Khan. She started out as a choreographer in 1992 and made her mark on Hindi cinema through her distinctive work.
In 2004, Farah made her directorial debut with ‘Main Hoon Na’, which became the second-highest-grossing film that year, and then followed her second film ‘Om Shanti Om’, which became the biggest hit of 2007.
Mira Nair, who was one of the first female Indian directors to become known internationally, once quoted that Bollywood’s new female directors “think in a more expansive way”. She also added, “Their cinema is a reflection of their world, keeping their own tangent, wanting the marketplace and managing.”