It was a day when a yesteryear heroine of Hindi cinema and a ruling star from down South got together at a most unlikely event — a prestigious literary festival — to speak against the skewed and often reductionist portrayal of women in Indian cinema.
Sharmila Tagore and Shriya Saran who took centre stage at the concluding session of The Hindu Lit for Life 2013 were in agreement that by and large the woman’s place in cinema was that of a housewife managing the kitchen and the family, or as a sex object.
“The career woman was often portrayed as a home-breaker even though since the 1990s, many women were going out to work,” remarked Sharmila Tagore, who has worked with such masters as Satyajit Ray and Gulzar.
“I don’t think things have really changed,” said Shriya, who seldom gets scripts while signing on the dotted line; just a vague outline of the character being a bubbly cheerful girl and the six songs she has to do.
With Jerry Pinto, winner of The Hindu Literary Prize 2012, as moderator at the session ‘Kingdom of Dreams’, the two actors shared their experiences and assessment of the future for women’s roles in cinema. They felt that with the arrival of younger directors and the right economic factors, films featuring women of substance too would click at the box office. However, for this to happen, social attitudes need an overhaul, they said.
Then, there was the obvious question from the audience directed at Sharmila Tagore who was previously chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification. On her thoughts on the ban of Vishwaroopam, Ms. Tagore was of the view that once a film received censor board certification, it should be allowed to screen. “Banning is absolutely not the answer,” she said.
Earlier, Jeet Thayil, who is short-listed for the Man Booker Prize, read out from his ‘Narcopolis’, a novel set in Bombay, “which is the hero and heroine of the story”.
Some 50 pages of the book are set in China during the time of the Cultural Revolution, he told the session host Nilanjana Roy.
Mr. Thayil spoke about how writers needed to be addictive personalities, how he liked to get lost in new cities and in their anonymity, reinvent himself.
There was also a breezy session that sought to define great food involving the duo Rocky Singh and Mayur Sharma, and chef Dharmen Makwana along with general manager The Leela Palace, Pascal Dupuis, in conversation with Farzana Contractor, Editor ‘UpperCrust’ magazine.
The two-day literary festival was launched on Saturday by Nirmala Lakshman, director, Kasturi & Sons Ltd; who conceptualised and curated the event. Shalini Arun, deputy editor, The Hindu, thanked the participants, sponsors and volunteers.
Sponsors & Partners:
The Hindu Lit for Life is presented by VGN and powered by VIT University.
Associate Sponsors: Shriram Chits
Official Car Partner: Volvo
Bookstore Partner: Landmark
Hospitality Partner: The Leela Palace, Chennai
Event Partner: Aura
Radio Partner: Chennai Live