March 08 : Streaming giant Netflix India just shared an epic picture featuring almost 44 celebrities on social media.
The official handle of Netflix India dropped a picture with three part note, featuring 44 leading ladies of Bollywood – including Director, Producers, Writers and actors.
Celebrities such as Alankrita Shrivastava, Renuka Shahane, Pooja Bhatt, Neena Gupta, Amala Paul, Divya Dutta, Inayat Verma, Ashwin Yardi, Guneet Monga, Tahira Kashyap Khurrana, Prajakta Kohli, Kriti Kulhari, Masaba Gupta, Zoya Hussian and more features on the picture.
The note read, “Raise your hands if you’ve grown up watching films where women needed macho heroes to rescue them from the bad guys, ran around trees singing songs, and only dreamt about falling in love. But the women we see around us, women like you and me, are simply so much more.
Actor Amala Paul remembers watching Bollywood films as a kid. They were all about the ‘perfect’ woman with a great marriage, happy husband and children. She says, “I want to see stories that explore the grey side–the insecurities, fears, and traumas we develop from our relationships or childhood. I wish there were more movies that taught us to love ourselves; to put ourselves first.”
The changing narratives of today are paving the way for a tomorrow where the ambitions, desires and dreams of women are boundless. Eight-year-old Inayat Verma who recently starred in Ludo, says in her adorable manner, “Mein badi ho kar working girl ka role karna chahungi. Kyunki tab hum pyaar bhi kar sakte hain, aur independent bhi rahenge.”
Stories have now become bolder, sharper and more inclusive. “I think things have changed over the last 3-4 years,” says veteran actor, Neena Gupta. “Actresses my age are getting more interesting roles. I recently met young girls at an airport who told me that they loved Pinni -- a story about an older woman and her husband. I never thought young girls would like something like this.” This goes on to show that our audiences are evolving. Women don’t need to shy away from telling their stories or owning their spaces anymore.
Today, badass, feisty women-centric stories are finding their way into our homes. There are more female characters who go through real-life experiences and are unafraid to take up space. Take Pooja Bhatt for instance, who returns to play a no-nonsense, career woman in Bombay Begums. Diverse roles such as this helps women from across the age spectrum reclaim their voice.
“Why do we feel that once women have crossed a certain threshold in terms of age, somehow they stop being women?” asks director Alankrita Shrivastava, popularly known for her film Lipstick Under My Burkha. “Why do we forget that they're full-bodied human beings with ambitions and desires; that they also experience love, heartbreak and betrayal?”
While we might have managed to nudge the status quo slightly, actor-turned director, Renuka Shahane feels we need to fling the doors right open. “I think, I want real. I want people to look at women in a very human, non-judgmental way. Women need to have their own character arc and should be well-defined. I still see the ‘saviour man’ syndrome even in women-centric films, which needs to stop.”
The digital era has elbowed out space for more diverse stories that are centered on spunky women who aren’t mere cardboard cut-outs. Renuka Shahane says she wouldn't have been able to release Tribhanga 10 years ago without brutally editing it. “I would’ve probably had to make my characters ‘nicer’, more ‘womanly’, more ‘acceptable’. Kajol’s character for instance, is rude. She's in-your-face.”
While films like Super Deluxe are being appreciated for their progressive scripts, when we think about diversity in storytelling, we still have a long way to go. We need more stories of women who exist across ages, classes, and the LGBTQI+ spectrum.
“The problem comes with films that have any kind of alternative point-of-view or aren’t star-driven,” says acclaimed director Alankrita Shrivastava. She notes that even today it is difficult to make films about homosexual characters and really dig deeper into their intimate lives because “you don't know whether the film will get passed or not.”
We must celebrate small wins though. If you look at behind-the-scenes, more women are steering the ship. There are more female directors, editors and stylists on sets calling the shots. “Back in 2003, when I was an assistant director, there were over 200 men and only three women on set,” says Alankrita.
Today, you can find an increasing number of women both on and behind the screen. However, more seats still need to be filled in departments like cinematography and sound. “I think we just have to proactively hire more women,” she says, “because the moment you have more women in powerful positions, automatically you’ll find those sets having more women.”
It really takes just one story to make a change. So, here’s to all the women making a difference with their stories. Together, we make a brighter, more colourful, more free tomorrow.
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