Friday, May 19, 2023

Women are already shining and will continue to shine: Dr. L. Murugan @ Cannes 2023

Day 4 at India Pavilion at the ongoing Cannes Film Festival started with a powerful session on role of women in media and entertainment space. The session aptly titled ‘She Shines’ was moderated by actor producer Khushboo Sundar while the speakers were Actor Esha Gupta, Greek-American director Daphne Schmon along with filmmakers Madhur Bhandarkar and Sudhir Mishra known for making female centric films.

Starting the conversation veteran Khushboo Sundar said, “India cinema is going through a beautiful phase where women are playing an important role in Cinema not only as actor but also producers, directors and technicians.”

Talking about creative economy with women power Bhandarkar said, “It is difficult to raise funds when you have a woman as the hero of the film, but I have been lucky to have made films that have done well at the box office, have won National Awards. You don’t get desirable budget with women-oriented film but that’s the case all over the world.”

Why the risk then? When asked this, Bhandarkar said, “I am comfortable making films from their (women’s) point of view. It gives the stories a different perspective.”

“When I went to producer with Chandni Bar, people didn’t want to put in money. I had to then make a film with multiple heroes called Trishakti. The film didn’t do well at all. Then I decided to make Chandni Bar and finally managed to get a producer on board. Thankfully Chandni Bar was commercially and critically acclaimed. That, I think gave me the courage to make more movies with women as my central characters. Though even today, people tell me the budgets that I am getting to make a film will increase if I make a film with a hero. But I am happy to make the kind of cinema I am making. Things are definitely changing though, especially with OTT, it gives everyone at opportunity to take these risks.”

Esha Gupta while talking about her experience said, “This year I complete a decade in industry and till 2019 it was just a dream to have an important role in a film. We were trying to make a film with Anupam Kher and Kumud Mishra, with me as a central character of a female cop, but it was very difficult to get funds for the film. When the film came in theatres, it didn’t do well at all but when the film came on Netflix, it was viewed widely. This shows that audiences want to watch women stories. Things are changing now but we need more directors who will have faith in our stories.”

Daphne Schmon who directed film ’The Eye’ with Shruti Haasan said, “It’s important to acknowledge that 51 percent of movie going audiences are women. We need to see our stories on screen. We need focus on having women directors and actors in forefront. We select around 10 women every year and help them getting finance for their films. It is important that we see men and women on equal footing as artists.”

The numbers (box office collection) of Wonder Woman shows that if a film is made well, it will do well even with a woman as the main character. We need to market these films well.” Schmon added.

When Bhandarkar spoke about how producers are looking at a good opening when they want a hero in the film, filmmaker Sudhir Mishra who is in the French Rivera attending the film festival, joined in the conversation, “No one now a days is giving a box office opening anyway.”

“The audiences are changing. They anyway are waiting for OTT release of films. The environment in the industry is changing rapidly. If we go to a film set, 50 percent of the crew is women. I hope we have more women filmmakers and I hope they tell our (Men’s) perspective too.

“France is one country where there are more women younger directors than men, I think. Slowly things are changing, we have Zoya and Reema and so many others in south. We still have a long way, but we are progressing.”

Talking about what how the government is contributing towards women empowerment in various fields, Hon’ble Minister of State, Information & Broadcasting Ministry, Govt of India Dr. L. Murugan said, “The women are really shining and will continue to shine in cinema. I don’t see cinema as a female or male centric cinema. There was a Tamil film called Magalir Mattum (Ladies Only) with women as central characters and it really did well. Vidya Balan is doing well. There are films like Padman that are focussing on women issues. There is a film festival called She Short film Festival dedicated to women creators, Aishwarya Sundar made an animation film that won national award and Guneet won an Oscar. I think our women are already successful in creating a beautiful space in Cinema. Nari Shakti is emerging under the leadership of Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”

Dr. Murugan also spoke about how NFDC has trained more than 100 women creators and technicians in film industry and the initiative called 75 Creative Minds of Tomorrow had more than 70 percent females this year. “Government has so many schemes dedicated to women power.” He concluded.

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