Bollywood filmmaker Zoya Akhtar says as more and more women make their mark in the workplace in Indian society, it is reflecting in the country’s cinema as well. “Every time we have a woman on-screen, we can empower her in a different way rather than just giving a speech on the importance of equality and empowerment. I think sometimes we have to show her as powerful. I think the influx of women at the workplace is also changing the narratives in our cinema,” Zoya said while commenting on how the image of women and woman-centric films is changing in Bollywood.
“There are women everywhere now — whether it is a film producer, director, studio head, publicist or in marketing — therefore there is a change of sensibility in the narration. As cinema is a reflection of the world around us, with more women coming into the mainstream business, more women narratives will grab the limelight,” added the 45-year-old.
Zoya’s Lust Stories, an anthology of films by her and Karan Johar, Anurag Kashyap and Dibakar Banerjee, with whom she had earlier collaborated for Bombay Talkies.
On Lust Stories, which will release on Netflix on Friday, Zoya said: “We did not intend to make stories on women… It happened coincidentally. We did not sit together saying ‘Let’s make stories on sexual desire and lust of women’. But eventually, that has happened in all these four stories. You know why? Because that is how the world around us has changed, where a woman is voicing her thoughts on sexuality.”
Having said that, she added: “When it comes to writing characters, whether men or women, I think a good writer writes good characters. I know many men who, for years, have written strong, progressive women characters. I think how a writer and filmmaker think about women always translates into their work.”
So, which woman character reflects Zoya’s own personality?
“I write my films with Reema Kagti, and I think all the characters that I have written, somewhere or the other, reflect my thoughts, ideology and morality. I cannot choose one… But surely more flawed characters are closer to my heart,” answered the daughter of celebrated poet and lyricist Javed Akhtar.
As a filmmaker, Zoya wrote and directed the male bonding film Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. She believes making such a road trip film on women would be much easier today.
“Of course, the same film could have been made on women back then, but it would be easier today. But when I wrote the film, I wanted to make it on men. So I do not know if I had to struggle more to find people to back the film say seven years ago. Since I did not try, my aim was rather to make a film about three boys and their experiences.
“I cannot say how different it could have been if it was made with women. But, I am sure, commercially it may be much easier now,” said the Luck By Chance maker.
In Lust Stories, her story revolves around the class difference in our society between house helps and their employers.
“Though the film is releasing worldwide digitally, I want the Indian audience to watch it. They will be able to relate to it the most. They would identify with the situation… how differently they treat their house helps, who are practically a part of their family. They will hopefully think about how they behave and change it,” said Zoya.