Out of the roughly 116 Hindi films that released this year, only 5 were directed by women, which means female representation in directorial capacity on a Hindi movie set was a shameful 4.3 per cent.
A staggering 111 films were directed by men. So it was hardly surprising when Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to meet a delegation from Bollywood — including filmmakers, actors and producers — there wasn’t a single woman in the meeting. It is not clear who organised the meeting, finalised the attendees and if there were women who were invited at all. However, it would be naive to assume that an equal number of women — as men seen in the picture below — were invited, and not even one turned up.
The below picture clearly indicates the dire need for gender-diverse representation in Bollywood, especially when policy matters are being discussed at the highest level.
In a year when #MeToo finally hit Bollywood after several women came forward to share accounts of abuse and harassment, Modi’s delegation to ‘meet the industry’ only goes on to illustrate how tone-deaf the government ― which invited rape-accused Subhash Ghai to the International Film Festival of India ― remains to the cause of women empowerment.
What makes it worse is that women occupy several leadership positions in the Hindi entertainment industry. Just in case the PMO fell short of some research, here’s a handy guidebook of women producers, writers, and directors, who the Modi government can call the next time around.
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1. Priyanka Chopra
India’s first bonafide crossover star has successfully manage to juggle two of the most profitable film industries on either side of the globe. In between acting commitments for TV shows and movies, Chopra is also a producer who has dabbled in regional cinema, having produced Bhoga Khirikee, an Assamese film directed by Jahnu Barua. Having her onboard would have certainly added significant value to the conversation.
2. Meghana Gulzar
Meghna Gulzar, who made the riveting Talvar in 2016, and just this year, delivered the Alia Bhatt-starrer Raazi, could’ve been a solid addition to the list. She has also turned producer with her next film, the Deepika Padukone-starrer Chaapaak, which is inspired by the life of acid-attack survivor Lakshmi Agarwal.
Maybe in the next meeting, Mr. PM?
3. Ekta Kapoor
One of the most powerful producers in the Hindi film industry, someone who has more experience than quite a few men in the delegation, and who has interests in television, film production, as well as a streaming platform, surely could’ve contributed significantly about issues plaguing the film industry.
4. Deepika Padukone
One of the biggest stars of the Hindi film industry ― it was only this year she went through hell after the release of her film, Padmaavat, was stalled by a far-right fringe group. Facing death threats, threats of physical assault, and severe
online trolling, Padukone essentially encapsulated the price women pay despite being successful actors in the entertainment industry. Since the Karni Sen was threatening to cut off her nose, at least the PM could’ve given a ear to her concerns? In case one has forgotten, despite a Supreme Court order stating that Padmaavat be released in Rajasthan, the film struggled to play there. What’s more, Padukone has also reportedly turned producer with her next, the Meghna Gulzar-directed Chaapaak.
5. Anushka Sharma
We’re certain that Anushka Sharma would’ve found time out from her promotional schedule of Zero to make it in time to Raj Bhavan in Malabar Hill for the meeting with Modi. In recent years, Sharma has had an excellent career trajectory, having worked with some of the best Indian filmmakers. Additionally, she also turned producer with Navdeep Singh’s NH10 and followed it up with Anshai Lal’s Phillauri (2017) and Prosit Roy’s Pari that released early this year. Having acted in 23 films and produced 3 should be enough for her to be on the table with the all-male power-brokers of Bollywood, isn’t it?
6. Guneet Monga
One of the documentaries that Monga co-produced, Period. End of Sentencehas just made it to the 2019 Oscars shortlist. This year, she also became a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences hat organises the Oscars. Earlier this year, she also made it to the International Women’s Impact Report 2018 of Variety magazine. Since one of the subjects discussed in the meeting was Bollywood’s global influence as India’s ‘soft power,’ we’ve a lingering feeling that Monga would have had something meaningful to contribute.
7. Sneha Rajani
The deputy President and Head of Sony Pictures Network, a studio that has produced films such as the Deepika Padukone-starrer Piku, has had an illustrious career in the Indian entertainment industry, having worked in key positions across several television and film companies. She’s also part of the committee formed by the Producer’s Guild to address sexual harassment cases in the industry.
If a Siddharth Roy Kapur and Ronnie Screwala can be invited, why not Sneha Rajani?
8. Radhika Apte
Apte is perhaps the busiest actor of 2018. From acting in regional films to the Hindi mainstream to practically monopolising Netflix shows (Sacred Games, Ghoul, Lust Stories), the Pune-born has had quite a stunning year. Given the spectrum of her experience in the entertainment industry, it’s a no-brainer that Apte merited a presence in the PM’s meeting with high-profile industry stakeholders.
9. Swara Bhasker
The outspoken actress who consistently engaged with issues, both inside and outside the film industry, definitely needed to be on a delegation that spoke about problems facing Bollywood and how the government can work towards improving them. Bhasker often offers a contrarian view and one would assume that a government that’s still a political democracy would be encouraging of such a voice.
10. Nandita Das
She directed Manto, one of the most compelling biopics this year. She’s always been an outspoken feminist. She also happens to be one of the strongest independent voices in cinema today. These are qualifications that shouldn’t even be the yardstick for her to be on the delegation, because we can see that the men haven’t been held to the same standards for a seat on the table. Yet, Das, was missing from the picture.