Published: 14th December 2017
Filmmakers Aparna Sen, Geethu Mohandas on whether women directors have finally arrived on the scene
Is cinema really a women's world? 2 of the 35 female filmmakers in IFFK 2017 talks to us about the fest and if they feel that the industry has finally become conducive for women
Does gender really play a role when it comes to art? We've almost reached the stage where we can emphatically say NO to answer that question boldly. Let's look at films, for instance. A century later, Indian cinema can now boast that women have broken the traditional roles and are being accepted as filmmakers, writers, and technicians. Let's take a look at the International Film Festival of Kerala 2017. This year, it showcased films by 35 female filmmakers. Of them, three were Indians — Rima Das, Aparna Sen and Geethu Mohandas.
Since the Kerala Chalachitra Academy proudly boasts this aspect on its website, we reached out to two of these filmmakers. What we got to hear were two contrasting opinions.
Veteran actor and director Aparna Sen said that she was honoured to be one of those 35 women. She delivered the Aravindan Memorial Lecture at the fest, where her audience got to see her film, Sonata, that focused on the lives of three elderly unmarried women living in a big city. "It is so exciting to know that so many women directors are making films all over the world! Kudos to IFFK for showcasing so many of them here. It gives me a great sense of solidarity to be showcased along with them," says Sen.
Sen also feels that today's society has no problem in accepting women as filmmakers and expressed her happiness to see more and more young women coming up as filmmakers, including her daughter Konkana Sen Sharma and the Lipstick Under My Burkha director, Alankrita Shrivastava.
But as we know, every coin has two sides. Geethu Mohandas was the other filmmaker who we reached out to. Her film Liar's Dice, that spoke of people who were displaced and the life of migrant labourers, was screened in the category ‘Uprooted: Films on Identity and Space’. Geethu's is a strong voice that the Malayalam film industry has heard clearly and the filmmaker has made her opinions stand out through her films.
Her take: Geethu Mohandas on gender and cinema
Unlike Sen, Geethu says that she never felt 'special' just because she is a woman. "Why would I feel any different? Just because I'm a woman?" she asks. For someone who feels that cinema or any art form shouldn't come with a tag of gender bias, she says that she isn't there because she's a woman.
Even though she isn't in support of the IFFK emphasising the increasing number of female filmmakers, she supports their 'good faith'. "I'm sure that they might have their agenda for such level of propaganda in all 'good faith' to encourage more female participation in cinema. I am not offended by their statement," she remarks, adding that she is just a filmmaker, exhibiting her film.
Sen's Zen: Aparna Sen gets candid on her film Sonata
New perspectives: Aparna Sen has broken many barriers and so has her daughter
Your film Sonata will be screened at the festival. How was it to play the dual role of a lead actor and the director?
Awful! I hate having to wear both hats! My attention is diverted when I have to play a dual role, but sometimes it becomes imperative because a producer will insist and if I don't agree, it may become a deal breaker! As it is, funding is difficult to come by even after so many years of proving myself over and over again! We did have an acting coach for Sonata, but it is very galling not to have the benefit of my own supervision!
How similar are you to the lead character in the film?
Not even a little! She is from UP, whereas I am a Bengali! I would have played the Bengali character Dolon, and Shabana (Azmi) could have played Aruna the UP-ite. But Dolon had to sing and I wanted the song to be in the actor's own voice, not playback. Shabana is an excellent singer, while I can't sing a note! Besides, Aruna is very restrained, a bit of a Puritan, and I am a very far cry from that. But there's always acting to fall back on