Female directors have been a rare commodity in Bollywood despite women's success in front of the camera. The Bollywood market is largely dominated by men and it’s a tough industry for a women filmmaker to make her mark. They have to work extra hard with their distributors, financiers and actors, should they fail, they aren’t given a second chance. They work on tight budgets and their films are not marketed well. Some films made by women directors have been even denied a commercial release and have not been screened beyond film festivals.
According to Sharbani Deodhar who made her debut with ‘Yeh Silsila Hai Pyar Ka’:
"I cannot dream of getting creative freedom like a male director would. The financier and distributor dictate all the terms, with the box-office in mind. But when the film flops, I am supposed to shoulder the blame!"
Many women filmmakers complain about discrimination on part of the audiences:
“Women directors make films from the heart," explains Sai Paranjpye, chairperson of Children’s Film Society. "All my films like ‘Katha’, ‘Chashme Baddor’, ‘Sparsh’ and ‘Disha’ have been to film festivals and won awards. But somehow, audiences fail to connect with them." Indian women directors tend to deal with issues that are important to women, whereas the market goes by the success of a formula. Issues such as women’s problems, women’s struggles and women’s search for identity are common themes.
Some of the landmark “Women’s films” has been made by men:
Shabana Azmi -- who has worked with all the major female directors -- Vijaya Mehta, Sai Paranjpye, Aparna Sen, Aruna Raje, Kalpana Lajmi -- feels that Shyam Benegal and Mahesh Bhatt have equally strong feminine sensitivity.
Times are changing though. Some of the female directors are now working with the best acting talent in Bollywood:
Aparna Sen is all set to direct her first Hindi film "Gulel" with a dream cast of Ajay Devgan, Saif Ali Khan and Bipasha Basu. All three actors are working with a female director for the first time.
Then there's Tanuja Chandra's "Hope & A Little Sugar". It's a light romantic movie with 9/11 as its backdrop. Chandra has convinced Urmila Matondkar to be in the film.
Urmila seems fairly excited by the prospect. "In all these years in the industry I've never been directed by a woman before. It will be my first film with a woman director and also my first film in English."
Another gifted director, Vinta Nanda, who spearheaded satellite soaps in India with "Tara", is all set to direct her first feature film, "White Noise", with Tabu and Rahul Bose.
It looks like female directors are finally finding it easy to convince top stars about what's good for them.
Says Kalpana Lajmi: "I remember what a tough time I had after Shah Rukh Khan said yes to my 'Darmiyaan' and then backed out."
Kareena Kapoor is all set to be directed by Deepa Mehta.
"I think women instinctively understand the more sensitive emotions of a human being. I'm sure I'll discover new facets to my personality with Deepa," says Kareena.
Click here for an extensive list of South Asian Female filmmakers of our time. Some of the notable personalities include - Mira Nair, Deepa Mehta, Gurinder Chadha, Sushma Narain, Tanuja Chandra, Aparna Sen e.t.c
Other related post:
: Bibi Magazine interviews Gurinder Chadha
Update: Click here for an interesting piece about Nandita Das using film as a medium of expressing what she relates to. She has starred in 29 films and directed documentaries on AIDS, rainwater harvesting, Indian clay pottery and the role of theater in education.
Das's dream is to work on development projects and small feature films devoted to public service campaigns involving women and children.