Cinema Reviews

‘F-Rated – Being A Woman Filmmaker In India’ review: They are the yin things

Being a filmmaker, an Indian and a woman cannot be a homogenised, monolithic experience. Nandita Dutta’s new book, F-Rated: Being a Woman Filmmaker in India, takes us through the personal and professional journeys of 11 such women, knitting together some threads common to them all while also pointing to the differences in their individual narratives and responses to both life and cinema.

You will find here shared tales of discrimination and sexism on the sets, even though they are the boss of their films: for instance, the need to be loud and aggressive in order to be heard and taken seriously. And then, there’s the personal moments, the challenge of balancing motherhood and filmmaking.

Beyond these universalities are the singular experiences that underline each of their stories. It could be a Kiran Rao finding her space in the sun away from the shadow of as famous a husband as Aamir Khan. And finding her own style outside the diktat of the film industry.

It could be the interesting debate at the heart of the piece on Meghna Gulzar, where the filmmaker and writer meets up with very different and conflicting ‘gender’ readings of her superhit from last year, Raazi.

It has much to do with her outspoken personality and flamboyant cinema that Farah Khan, despite featuring earlier in one of the 10 monographs in the compendium Women In Indian Film, still manages to provide F-Rated its most unique and unapologetic perspective. One that is equally complicated and problematic. It shows how her films are male-dominated, how they stereotype women, and how they play with the trope of the item song. The commerce versus correctness binary is a point of eternal debate.

What happens behind the scenes

The book also has some telling behind-the-scene details — how some women refuse to be labelled as ‘female’ filmmakers to be boxed in by the accompanying gendered expectations. This gives some perspective into why some obvious names appear to be missing from the list of 11 featured here. The absence of Zoya Akhtar is stark, particularly in the light of the female gaze evident in each of her films. I also missed a conversation with Konkona Sen Sharma; her A Death in the Gunj poetically explores ‘conflicted ideas of masculinity’, showing us how not just women but even men bear the brunt of a domineering patriarchy. Sadly missing too is Rima Das, the one-woman filmmaking enterprise who has single-handedly stormed Assamese, Indian and international forums. It would have been interesting to find out where she intends to go from here.

F-Rated: Being A Woman Filmmaker In India; Nandita Dutta, Harper Collins, ₹499.

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Printable version | Jun 22, 2021 6:19:18 PM |

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