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Updated: February 18, 2013 18:10 IST

‘For women in films, not much has changed’

Special Correspondent
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Actors Shriya Saran (above) and Sharmila Tagore said that a woman’s role in cinema was in the kitchen or as a sex object. Photo: S. S. Kumar
The Hindu Actors Shriya Saran (above) and Sharmila Tagore said that a woman’s role in cinema was in the kitchen or as a sex object. Photo: S. S. Kumar

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

RELATED NEWS

The Hindu Literary Prize goes to Jerry Pinto February 17, 2013

@GNSetty: Well there have been countably numerous exclusive
interviews of many on that money matter....may not be exclusive to
you and so you might have to actually go find them! If the roles
were really good, then naturally there are better actors to fill
in...why would one wait for 10 years so the model can learn acting
on the job and why not cast someone like Nandita Das who can act
right away....Naseeruddin Shah was not getting any roles for a long
time and neither is Rahul Bose getting great roles as a leading
man. As far as brains are concerned I dont think they matter too
much either for a man or a woman in mainstream movies...things need
to change yeah and I would be cheering the women cinematographers,
musicians and directors who go against odds to get there, rather
than get into the good books of lip service.

from:  venkat
Posted on: Feb 19, 2013 at 15:18 IST

The leading ladies playing fiddle to their male counterparts is common all over the world. There are few movies where just the women are shown to lead, but not many. I think the reason is 'men mars women venus', inspite of advancements all over the world. The society has to change to appreciate more films with dynamic women.

from:  Rajesh
Posted on: Feb 18, 2013 at 19:38 IST

The views expressed by both the ladies are absolutely right. Even though women have been working in all spheres of life equally well if not more, even today the working woman has to prove her virtue to all and sundry and the easiest way to drive away a woman who stands up for any right is to raise suspicions about her morality. It is unfortunate that male chauvinism and feudal outlook are not exclusive to men but in our country it applies to many women as well. All movies reflect this outlook of a majority of the population. Women actors despite their talent or beauty are looked down upon and even now acting is a profession viewed with derision and contempt. Only time and progress will change this outlook and we shall march on and if need be, walk alone, to overcome this.

from:  Bala
Posted on: Feb 18, 2013 at 19:18 IST

The actresses can establish their proper place in movie industry by (1) being totally professional (2) insist on prior approval of story line (3) refuse to play a totally decorative/sexdolls roles and, more than anything else (4) bury for ever the casting couch.If they think they cannot do these things, who do they think can help them?

from:  V. Nageswara Rao
Posted on: Feb 18, 2013 at 18:36 IST

Well said Venkat.
And the actresses are saying this the year after a movie like Kahani was released!

from:  samyuktha
Posted on: Feb 18, 2013 at 18:33 IST

The ladies did not talk about money or equal pay or even gender equality unless Venkat had an exclusive interview with them.They were talking about how woman's role in a movie is standard : either as a housewife,sex object or a dancer.Why does it have to be always action ( violence ) that Venkat thinks men get paid for,not for any brains? If it is brains,women need to be given important roles just as they play important roles in today's society.We men have to change a lot everywhere.

from:  GNSetty
Posted on: Feb 18, 2013 at 16:09 IST

If you think women used as sex object... Dont accept such roles or charecters.Its as simple as that.... You want glamout and fame and money and accept those roles...and then complain... Thats not fair...

from:  Jayadevan
Posted on: Feb 18, 2013 at 13:13 IST

I find this permanent whine from the leading ladies of movie
industry pretty hypocritical. So many capable male actors dont get
that great roles in Indian cinema as well. Then comes the whine
about different pay packets for leading men and women but that is
mostly justified by the large parts of the movie involving just
action sequences of the leading man. If their roles are so poor
why do they ask for such high remunerations....why participate in
this commodification of women. Why dont they think about the bad
treatment meted out to so many artists like cinematographers,
directors, musicians etc. who contribute equally to the movies but
get paid a pittance. Bad movies make money not just because of men
but equally because of women who cant think beyond song, dance with
some fights. If they just want even more money and recognition,
fine, but they shouldn't make that a gender issue for personal
gain....just a distraction from real problems faced by women.

from:  venkat
Posted on: Feb 18, 2013 at 10:52 IST
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