Over the last few years, we have seen more women-centric Indian films being made than the last few decades combined. And yet, there is a visible gender disparity among the people making these films. We still have more men telling us stories about women than women themselves. It’s safe to assume that certain nuances get overlooked in the process. These stories, after all, are backed by research rather than personal experience.
Writing With Fire
Take Rintu Thomas and her co-director Sushmit Ghosh’s Writing With Fire, for instance - a documentary that lays bare the reality of Dalit women in our country. It has the protagonist, Meera, who’s one among this suppressed and silenced minority, mustering the courage to start a first-of-its-kind, all-women news outlet, to shed light on crimes subjected on her people - much to the annoyance of the men in the region. The scary revelations and powerful reporting shown in the film, have tugged at people’s heartstrings, making it a worthy choice for India’s official entry to the Oscars this year. Although it didn’t make the cut, it’s a huge deal to have a small film like this with no known face, getting global exposure. Here are four more Indian films made by women directors that won the Oscar ticket:
Directed by Zoya Akhtar with Ranveer Singh playing the eponymous character, Gully Boy was India’s official entry to the Oscars in the Best Foreign Language Film category in 2020. Although the film didn’t make it to the subsequent round, it left a mark on audiences far and wide. The coming-of-age story, about a precocious rapper hailing from a slums helped put Mumbai’s underground hip-hop scene on the map. Its 18-track album, put together by 54 artists from across the country, made waves in independent music. Actors like Alia Bhatt, Kalki Koechlin, Siddhant Chaturvedi, Vijay Raz and Vijay Varma made a stellar supporting cast.
Period. End Of Sentence.
Directed by Rayka Zehtabchi and produced by Guneet Monga, Period. End Of Sentence. was a 26-minute film highlighting the glaring lack of menstrual education and hygiene facilities in rural India. It showed us misconceptions and superstitions related to periods that continue to prevail in Harpur district and other such small villages across our country. The women featured in it giggle with embarassment at the mere mention of sanitary pads, which goes to prove how distant a dream women’s sexual emancipation is in India. Period. End Of Sentence. won the Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject) in 2019 and made us all proud.
An Assamese film written, directed, edited, and produced by Rima Das, Village Rockstars is an absolute visual treat that takes us through scenic locations from Northeastern India - a cherry on the cake to the performance of Bhanita Das, the little girl portraying the character of Dhunnu. She is reprimanded for playing with boys instead of girls, but turns a deaf ear to the naysayers. Her innate passion for music drives her to form a band with her guy friends, using sticks and cardboard boxes as instruments. Village Rockstars was India’s official entry to the Oscars for the Best Foreign Language film in 2019, but didn’t make it to the shortlist.
Co-written, directed and co-produced by movie maestro Mira Nair, Salaam Bombay struck a chord with the Indian diaspora for its raw and real portrayal of poverty in our country. The story follows 11-year-old Krishna, who loses his way while working in a circus to make ends meet, and lands in the slums of Mumbai, destitute of basic amenities. Salaam Bombay was nominated for Best International Feature Film at the 61st Academy Awards, but lost to Billie August’s Pelle The Conqueror.