On an uneven path

On an uneven path

Wage gap

On an uneven path

Women have been seen playing bold roles and as gamechangers in many movies in Sandalwood. But things aren’t always as rosy as they appear onscreen. As another International Women’s Day approaches, actors in the Kannada film industry narrate stories of the challenges women artistes face shooting on sets and offscreen.

Actors who have played different roles in the industry feel that in accordance with this year’s International Women’s Day theme #BeBoldForChange, actors need to stand up for themselves to see changes around them. Actor and director Roopa Iyer says that one shouldn’t just wait for opportunities but create their own. “Be it movies or the small screen, male and female artistes are treated differently. Women always put in the best efforts into any project and this shouldn’t be taken advantage of. Also, people in the industry always make female artistes feel insecure, which is sad,” she says.

She recollects how when she worked as a director, people wouldn’t respect her or take her seriously. “Everyday, one has to work with around 120 people on a set. When I would raise my voice for something, people would be judgemental about it,” says Roopa. She is hopeful that with the changing times, these challenges will fade away.

Despite bold sequences being included in regional movies, the issues are many, says actor Sindhu Loknath, who will soon be seen in a woman-centric movie, ‘Samayada Gombe’. “It is very unfair in Sandalwood. I don’t have a clear understanding of the basis on which the remuneration is fixed for artistes in the industry and how they are treated,” she says.

Sindhu says that a hero who has a successful movie to his credit is paid almost thrice the remuneration he earned for his first project.

“But if it’s a female artiste who has already acted in a couple of movies, the growth is minimal. Also the lifespan of female actors in the industry is short. Once a female actor marries, she is often sidelined,” says the actor.

She goes on to ask how a 50-year-old male actor can portray a college-going student while many directors think twice about hiring a 30-year-old female actor for a similar role. “This is very confusing!” Sindhu also adds that she has experienced unfair treatment on the sets where, when an actor would arrive,  he would be surrounded by the whole team but a female actor would not be paid much attention to.

“There have been instances where a male actor who was suffering from just a flu was given an off and the shoot was cancelled, whereas I have had to shoot even when it was an emergency situation for me. Very few people value or respect female artistes,” she says.

Getting respect isn’t as big a challenge as remuneration is, feels Sudha Belawadi, a veteran actor. “Though people treat you with the kind of respect that you treat them with, the remuneration is always a dividing factor,” she says.

Sudha adds that often characters are also written in a way that the script focusses more on the male roles. “If there are big male actors in a scene, a female actor would be just shown as nodding along or simply as an addition to the scene. The variety of characters that male actors get are not offered to female actors,” she says. She adds that to tap more potential talent, scriptwriters in the Kannada film and television industry need to take bold moves and write characters that are noticed. “The new breed of directors is more open to change and respectful. When there can be noticeable roles for Meryl Streep in Hollywood, why not for our own actors?” she adds.

Actor Radhika Chetan feels that the disparity between the sexes in terms of remuneration has been a topic of debate for a long time.

“Though I am at a very nascent stage in the field, I would say that lessening the gap would be a great change. As everyone knows, a male lead actor doing a hero-oriented project would definitely draw more money than a woman-centric. A change here would encourage a lot of fresh talent,” she says.

“These issues fade once the audience starts accepting newer themes and projects. Once the audience is open to different subjects, the people in the field will also avoid gender bias,” Radhika adds. Of the other challenges that female artistes face, the most problematic one is hygiene issues like lack of proper washrooms and changing rooms. Radhika adds, “People can be a bit more sensitive in this regard. However, things are slowly changing and there is hope for the industry.”