India@75, Looking at 100 | Cinema through the female lens

Remember, making a movie is a collective process, not dictated by an individual, writes Guneet Monga. (Source: Pixabay)

Our film industries must become places where women and all underrepresented communities can share their voices and be heard. Currently, women make up less than 5 percent of India’s filmmakers. In the next 25 years, my biggest wish is for that to change.

Written by Guneet Monga
Updated: February 8, 2023 07:54 IST

When I was a 26-year-old producer, I started wearing zero-power spectacles, putting on sarees and colouring my hair grey, just to voice my opinion and be taken seriously. It wasn’t easy getting people to treat me as a man’s equal for business. It took me a while to muster up the courage to speak in professional group settings — often, I would simply text my opinion. I would later wonder whether I should have said something — classic imposter syndrome.

That it took me 14 years to make Pagglait, a feature film that I can fully call my own production, under Sikhya Entertainment, says a lot about my journey. Still, those 14 years were not wasted, simply because of how much I learned. To truly understand the craft of filmmaking, I spent years working every opportunity I could find around the set. No role was too big or too small. Nothing was beneath or above me. Every little job taught me something new.

Today, I’m in a position where I can help build an environment where women feel empowered and valued enough to be able to share their perspectives without feeling sidelined. It is our voices that make us who we are, and I’m hopeful that, over the next 25 years, our film industries become places where women and all underrepresented communities can share theirs, and be heard.

Right now, less than 5 per cent of filmmakers are women. My single biggest wish is for that to change. The female point of view matters, and this percentage has to increase.

We are a young production house, trying to tell stories from the heartland, stories that matter, stories that deserve telling in our own unique manner. I’ve also actively tried to work with young female filmmakers, who have made their debut with us. Be it Puja Banerji (Conditions Apply), Kartiki Gonsalves (The Elephant Whisperers), Vijayeta Kumar (Sunny Side Upar: An episode in the show Zindagi inShort), or Zoya Parvin (Clean), we’ve supported their vision, turned it into reality. Our crew is also led by many female heads of departments, a structure we’ve consciously worked towards establishing. This was a change I had wished to see in my early days in the industry.

I am lucky to be a producer in India. Our country is such a vast and beautiful land, and our diversity is our greatest asset. The film industry here has such a large spectrum of cultures, stories, and opportunities to explore. The fact that the film industry thrives in changing times and continues to persevere, generating work and livelihood for thousands of people, is truly fascinating.

I’m proud that every day, a film crew wakes up at odd hours and comes together to bring a communal vision to life. The never-say-die attitude of the filmmaking community amidst the unpredictability of the industry is something we should be proud of. It’s a business of risk-taking — risks that have cost people a fortune sometimes. Yet, we try to tell stories we believe in and think will resonate with audiences. The reality is, though, after months of hard work and years working on a vision, you’re left with 90 to 120 minutes or a short episode of a show. There’s instant gratification and instant dismissal awaiting us. Stomaching criticism or staying grounded when showered with accolades, makes the Indian film industry a truly magical place.

For young girls and women aspiring to be part of India’s film industries in the coming years, this is my advice: Remember, that making a movie is a collective process, not dictated by an individual. As long as you put your 100 per cent into making it a success, your work is done. Your work will speak for itself as long as you keep hustling and staying grounded. Understand the market, keep absorbing, and learn from different filmmakers and their work.

We don’t need to wait for change anymore, advancements in technology have placed the power of the internet in our hands. Change is happening now and everywhere, all at once. The world is your oyster, available at the tap of a finger today. As we advance towards India’s 100th year as an independent nation, I hope there will be true diversity and representation in every field, including films. I hope more women get out there without doubting themselves, with a clear vision, earnestness, and determination.

The writer is an Oscar and BAFTA-nominated independent film producer in India

© The Indian Express (P) Ltd


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