At a panel discussion on ‘Women shaping the narrative in media and entertainment’, organised by Amazon Prime Video and Screen Writer’s Association, Zoya Akhtar shared that women don’t need to claim opportunities that they already own.
Stating that gender should never become one’s identity, the filmmaker said, “I don’t think I need to state the obvious time and again. I have never not been a woman, so why keep talking about gender. To be honest, no one in the industry cares about gender. A woman filmmaker is just a media term. As a director or producer, what’s most important is that you are commercially viable. Be it men or women, your success rate becomes your identity.”
When the moderator Anuradha Sengupta questioned whether more women joining the ranks have changed the way females are portrayed on screen, Zoya said, “It is wrong to say that it is a recent phenomenon. Every decade there have been films made with strong and central women characters. Yash Chopra’s heroines were always strong. Even Sanjay Leela Bhansali or Madhur Bhandarkar have presented stories on female characters.”
She further added, “I keep getting asked why women have not been presented in a certain way in films. But the fact remains that even men have not been presented properly. The masculinity shown is very toxic. But things have changed.”
On a closing note, the panel, featuring Vidya Balan, filmmakers Guneet Monga, Sooni Taraporewala, writer Ghazal Dhaliwal, comedian Sumukhi Suresh and Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke, discussed whether men’s opinions have been forgotten and whether they are ready to accept female-centric stories.
Zoya stated, “I am who I am is not just because of the women in my life but also the men. My father and brother (Javed and Farhan Akhtar) are hardcore feminists. I understand that we are part of a patriarchal society, but it took me time to understand that. Earlier, I did not even understand most of the sexism around.”
“What is the need of the hour is to enable creators to tell their stories in a way they want. Men will keep watching and they will connect. But we don’t need to put the woman tag on everything. Through my films, I am any way putting out the hero the way I want the man in my life to be. So we don’t need to keep saying things like made by a woman or for the woman. The change is already there and I must add that there are a few men who have been really involved in this process,” the filmmaker concluded.