Many women working behind the camera are creating a niche for themselves in core technical areas of filmmaking.
Negotiating their inherent vulnerabilities and a highly biased and hypocritical society, women survive and sustain themselves in the film industry like never before. Taking stock of the last decade, one cannot but acknowledge the emerging women power in Malayalam cinema, especially in areas not conventionally delegated to women in earlier times. The gender border in the industry is slowly getting erased as women step into the core technical areas of cinema.
Many women now consider cinema as a vocation and proudly perform their jobs with a dedication and efficiency the profession demands. They come from all walks of life and are not necessarily the children of people working in the industry. What motivates them is their passion for cinema.
For instance, Joicy Joy, Nayana and Roshini are cineastes turned filmmakers who have made a name for themselves with their work. Twenty-eight-year-old Joicy, who comes from Wayanad, has been assisting Lal Jose for the past five years. Her affable nature and deftness in handling people are what strikes one the most. Not to mention her clear and precise understanding of cinema and the Lal Jose way of visualising a story.
Twenty-two-year-old Nayana, a native of Karunagapally, is Lenin Rajendran’s first assistant. Nayana got bitten by the film bug during her student days in Thiruvananthapuram where she attended several editions of the International Film Festival of Kerala. Highly recommended in film circles for her skills in production management, Nayana recently worked with Kamal in Celluloid and is now part of his team. That is… till she makes enough money to make her dream debut.
Roshni, married to a software engineer in Bangalore, found that the city opened new avenues to pursue her singular passion – cinema. Assisting V.K. Prakash in his features and ad films, Roshni is a right mix of commitment and attitude.
Cinema always has had women participation in the departments of make-up, dance and costumes. But seldom did their sensibilities get integrated into the medium. All we saw were men’s decisions. Times have changed, and so has cinema. Women professionals helming major productions not only call the shots in their domain, but also insist on their aesthetic views and cinematic choices being reflected on screen. These women are individuals who take a conscious decision to pursue cinema as a vocation and undergo professional training and grooming for that. They are backed with adequate theoretical knowledge and practical expertise as well. And most of them have reputed national and international film training institutes as their alma mater.
Costumes in Malayalam cinema have undergone a major transition, courtesy Sameera Saneesh and Kuku Parameswaran. Technical areas such as cinematography and editing already have women technicians making their mark - Anjuli Shukla in Kutty Sranku and Arunima Shankar in Akam respectively. Sound design has two promising names currently under training – Resmi Satheesh and Sanjukta Sunil. Anu Elizabeth Jose now has a prominent place in the lyric writing scene after her rocking hit ‘Muthu Chippi…’.
They have all made their presence felt. But the icing on the cake is Anjali Menon's box office success with Ustad Hotel. Definitely momentous, considering the traditions of commercial cinema where men ruled the roost. It may take some more time for women to consolidate their positions vis a vis the box office, but Anjali's meaningful associations with commercial cinema has set a successful precedence and has opened a space where women’s work will be treated without any distortions or inhibitions of gender.
Well, it definitely is not a level playing field yet – with the men still going strong with their own grammar, aesthetics and agenda of filmmaking. But the good news is that the women are finding a place of their own too.
(Sangeeta is an award-winning independent filmmaker)