By Online Desk

Indian cinema has been through massive changes, perhaps the most defining one being the growing participation of women. From being seen mainly as actors, they can now be found across the board as directors, producers, editors, scriptwriters and technicians. However, as we pass through the third decade of the 21st century, does the film industry in our country finally offer a level playing field in terms of gender equity? 

An In-Conversation session held on Monday at the 54th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) on the topic ‘Women Power in Indian Cinema’ tried to find answers to this poignant question.

Director Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, known for Bareilly Ki Barfi (2017), Tarla (2023) and other works, emphasised the need to eliminate labels such as ‘female film director’ or ‘female film editor’ as women are now at the forefront, which means the narrative has also shifted. 

She reflected upon the film industry’s progress, saying the participation of women has increased substantially due to the advent of more schools teaching about cinema, editing and script writing. “There is a need for more women in decision-making bodies within the film industry. We need more men who encourage the participation of women in film decision-making platforms,” she stressed.

While discussing the opportunities that have been opened up to women by OTT platforms, Ashwiny expressed the hope that both theatres and OTT platforms will coexist. 

The director also offered advice to many of the young aspiring women who have just stepped into the industry by encouraging them to not overthink their roles. She also highlighted the significance of understanding real-life stories by travelling and engaging with diverse social structures.

The spotlight then turned to Shweta Venkat Mathew, a seasoned film editor known for Gangs of Wasseypur (2012), Newton (2017) and Haseen Dillruba (2021) who accentuated the unique perspective women bring to storytelling. “Women’s eyes catch nuances lost in translation from script to screen,” she remarked, underlining the importance of increased female representation in the industry.

Shweta also stressed the fact that one must focus on the quality of work rather than gender-centric considerations.

With regard to the issue of pay disparity, both women expressed differing points of view. Ashwiny mentioned that she didn’t face the issue of inequitable pay in her professional career and went on to thank her producers. Meanwhile, Shweta shared how there was always a marked difference in what was being offered to her and her male counterparts at the start of any project.

Ashwiny also added that most women film professionals don’t usually acknowledge their own talent and ought to negotiate better for fair compensation based on their contributions.

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