With the success of the female-centric Highway and Queen, has the tide finally turned in favour of women-oriented films? We ask two directors
Aanand L Rai
I’ve never thought of cinema this way because I have been brought up on Bimay Roy’s Bandini and Sujata, Guru Dutt’s Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam or for that matter films by Raj Kapoor and how they have treated their female characters. I come from the school of cinema where women have a spine.
I would rather say that we are back on track. In between we were lost, during the decades of the ’80s and ’90s. We were trying to figure out what works for the audience and in doing that, there were desperate attempts to make an entertainer. If you look at the history of our cinema, Mother India still represents us at our best and it was about a woman; it did great business at the box office besides being a great film. Another great example is Vijay Anand’s Guide.
It is all part of a cycle and I believe we are not going to lose it again, rather we would discover new things along the way.
For me, the audience has evolved and moved quite ahead. They understand new ideas of storytelling with the increase in exposure to world cinema. If Queen and Highway are doing well, that’s a great welcome change. This is encouraging. Even Kahaani proved that a film with a woman protagonist can make money. As a maker, we want the horizon to widen up so that we can accommodate new stories, which will entail new characters. It is going to take a little more time, but we are on the right path.
It’s also high time for the audience and the makers to understand that there is a remarkable change in women too. The talk of equality between men and women is passe, it’s almost accepted now. The new modern woman is much more than that. And as a storyteller, we have to understand her.
At the end of the day, this is the triumph of new stories.
Producer and Director, Queen
I am not too much of a propagator of women-centric cinema. Rather, I am a propagator of cinema, good cinema. I think these women-centric stories are coming to the fore, because people are watching new and novel stories. If the story works with the audience, any kind of film will work, be it women-centric, children-centric, animal-centric or a typical hero-centric.
As a part of the storytelling industry, we should not limit ourselves as far as the medium is concerned. Thankfully, a newer wave of storytelling is sweeping our industry because a lot of new blood is entering our industry that has not been born and brought up in the fraternity. As a result, new ideas, new characters, new stories, and new interpretations are being told through original and innovative stories.
It hasn’t happened for long because we don’t explore enough. Why can’t we crack something like Gravity or Terminator? Unless and until we work towards them, we won’t be able to claim our bid as a storyteller. Even for women-centric cinema, we have mostly portrayed women as handling sad, depressing issues while totally ignoring the very happy, entertaining side to a woman’s life. As writers, we should look for interesting stories. Even by default, women-oriented cinema would come to the fore because they are exciting stories.
I believe everything has a cycle. The old order of storytelling is giving way to the new, and this new wave is just a part of that. In fact, whenever people ask me whether Queen would have been possible a decade or two ago, I tell them that it would have been absolutely possible. If you give the audience the content that is good, they will lap it up. The end point is people are ready when cinema is ready.
— Conducted by Ranjib Mazumder