The other side of the lens

Inspirational Roles

The other side of the lens

Women have been breaking glass ceilings for quite some time now. They have made inroads into areas once conceived as male bastions. But the picture is neither rosy nor perfect when it comes to cinema.

   In a nation driven by movies, women in front of the camera outnumber those behind it — be it direction, scriptwriting, cinematography, editing or sound design. Clearly, celluloid ceilings are yet to be broken.

But over the years, those who have unwavering faith in what they are doing behind the lens have succeeded. Ranu Ghosh, cinematographer and director, says, “I joined the industry 15 years back and have been doing cinematography for a long time now. Though I had earlier worked in feature films, it’s documentary films for me. In the mainstream industry, there is no support and when I began my career, no one wanted to be my camera caretaker because I was a woman. There are tough challenges and those begin at the basic level,” she says.

Ranu decided to stick to documentaries as she feels there are no boundaries
there. “You are not restricted. Mainstream cinema is completely male-dominated. I do a completely different kind of film-making and I love it,” she says.

These unsung heroines most often are not seen. They are attempting to shift the gender balance but the way is not smooth. And women do tell a story differently. Director Kavita Lankesh says although many women film-makers are coming up in Bollywood, there are not many here. “Throughout the world, there is a shortage of women behind the camera. Probably because it’s not a nine-to-five job. At a stretch, you can be shooting for one or two months.”

“As a director, there is a great amount of strain and at times, you are sidelined and named an art film-maker. The truth is we have to make good cinema and you are only as good as your last film. Personally, I have been lucky to have producers who have trust in me,” she says. She feels films should be made without any gender bias for all kinds of audience. “If a woman is strong, she will come into the field. I would constantly like to experiment,” she says
Director Farah Khan has been juggling her roles as mother, director and choreographer but admits that she has so far not seen any gender bias. “If you are talented, you will be accepted. There has been an influx of female directors, choreographers and script-writers but I must have been the first woman to direct a commercial film in Bollywood.”

“If you know your job, people will listen to you no matter which gender you belong to. There are lot of people who want to be my assistants. But I tell them that this is not an ‘in-between job’ and one should be here only if there’s passion for it. For me, what I do is not work, it’s a happy place to be.”

While women are clearly under represented in certain arenas, the tides are turning. Hopefully, those playing invisible roles will rise in number. Writer-director Rajshree Ojha feels challenges are the same for everyone.

“It’s a very creative field, but a little tougher for women as there’s a lack of trust. The question usually is ‘Can a woman hold a film on her own?’ And second chances are given more to male directors. However, we have come a long way from where we were. Once you are a director, you are a director. You should keep your eyes open, be willing to explore and struggle,” she says.

Slowly, the camera is beginning to tell different stories. By those who are more than just beautiful faces. And who are scripting their lives to success!

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