A winning week for women- The New Indian Express

express news service

For the first time in Indian cinema, two female-led movies that were released in two weeks are seeing a dream run on their respective OTT platforms. Malayalam film 19 (1) (a) by Indhu VS (Disney+ Hotstar) and Hindi film Darlings (Netflix) by Jasmeet K Reen have kept our minds and hearts full and are at the top of the charts of “most views”.

Both movies have garnered similar populist appeal and feature famous stars in lead roles. The story of both films can be labeled with words like ‘edgy’, ‘noir’, ‘stirring’, ‘niche’, ‘theme-focused’, ‘heroine-focused’… Both movies have the transformation of a protagonist (Nithya Menen and Alia Bhatt) as the central theme. Both address a larger issue that impacts an individual and reiterate the fact that no one can exist in isolation, that there is no individual without society, and vice versa, and what impacts one impacts all.

In 19 (1) (a), politics and free speech find a soft spot without the film being preachy or jingoistic about it. Darlings is about domestic abuse. Both issues are handled with care, genuine emotion, and splendid performances. Both show a spectacular eye for good cinema. The cinematography and music specifically in both movies are top notch. That we now have two additional ‘female directors’ to the small percentage of India’s debut filmmakers who are women, is in itself a feat to celebrate!

It’s 2022, and yet we’re behind in terms of women finding a seat at the top. It takes more than ‘just a while’ for a technical woman/writer/director to find her voice/her spotlight in film. Women who are not inherently wealthy take longer to become producers or directors, as investors don’t show up to provide that same opportunity. The question is why. An ‘equal opportunity’ to participate in the game and from then on, may the best man win! (pun intended).

Although Netflix and Amazon hire female executives to lead their content portfolios and businesses, it is no guarantee that other talented women will find the same opportunities on these (or other) platforms. At the end of the day, it’s about who was impressed with your story and how well you were able to take advantage of the opportunity to sell it. This is great, no complaints, but most of the time, even to get to this equal opportunity, women have to be extraordinarily patient and ‘stick it out’.

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While discussing O’Womaniya’s report showing us the dismal percentage of women in HOD positions within a film set and in the film industry, another film directed by a woman, Kiruthiga Udhayanidhi, fell on Zee5 Tamil. Paper Rocket is in the “feel good” space and features multiple actors and scenery. This genre is rarely taken seriously because people think it’s easy to create scenes that elicit smiles or tears (as they say in advertising, babies and puppies make great click bait).

But it’s just as hard to get warmth on screen as any other emotion. Also, this genre is what is expected of a female filmmaker in general, right?! A look at the filmography of female directors like Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar shows the tremendous reach of the ‘wellness genius’. Gender is a gift that can continue to be given!

The women who make good cinema today will become a gift to the next generation of filmmakers. More women behind the camera and within the film industry in key positions will allow for more representation, and then we may see more of us leading from the front. About time (and as Zoya Akhtar’s Gully Boy line goes, “Apna time aayega…”

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