Even in 2017, a considerable part of our cinema narratives are dominated by men and filled with stories that talk about the lives of different kinds of men. In all this, where is the place for women in cinema?
How has cinema treated its women? Have the aspirations of women been represented on screen?
These were some of the questions that were discussed at an open forum discussion at the International Film Festival Kerala on Sunday.
Among the panelists were actors Rima Kallingal, Parvathy, actor-cum-director Geethu Mohandas, director Vidhu Vincent, cameraperson Fousia Fathima, script writer Deedi Damodaran and cinematographer Mahim Mirza.
Speaking about how it is almost always a man who gets to narrate the story of a woman, actor Rima Kallingal said that it was about time that women told stories of women on screen.
"If we need to convey accurately what we feel, I think itâ€™s time that at some point, we begin to say our own stories," Rima said.
Saying that cinema was a way of human storytelling, actor Parvathy spoke about how the industry must be "de-genderized".
"To level this unfairness towards representation of women, the first step is to start talking about it. We should do a test and try to release films without revealing the names of the film maker. At the end of the day, cinema is a way of human storytelling and it must not matter who is saying the story. That's when the unfairness will start going away," Parvathy said.
Life as a "woman" film maker
Speaking on the fairness and unfairness of it all, actor and film maker Geethu Mohandas spoke about how she had been privileged enough to have opportunities come her way to make films, but found the industry itself baffling. Saying that she was confronted with certain statements at the beginning of her career, Geethu said, â€śI walked into this production house in Mumbai eight years back, hoping they would produce my film. And this woman asked me how old I was, which I thought was a completely irrelevant question. I told her Rajeev Ravi would be shooting my film, she dismissed it saying he only shoots for Anurag Kashyap. While I didn't tell her that I was going to marry him a month later, I felt bad that it came from a woman.â€ť
Representing women in cinema
A woman's narration of her life, a woman's sexuality, her desires are all subjects that are still alien to Malayalam cinema, said actor Parvathy. The actor, who recently made her Bollywood debut, said that there was a need for these areas to be represented in Malayalam cinema.
"It is also important for the health of our teenagers. The lack of a womanâ€™s perspective in cinema led me to be in an abusive relationship, where my boyfriend used to use cigarette butts on my leg. I thought it was a way of love, and because that is what cinema taught me. Our films teach us that if there's love, there will be violence; the guy is bound to hit the woman. I donâ€™t want any other girl growing up to learn that watching my movie. So when I choose scripts, I make sure that doesn't happen in my films," Parvathy said.
Speaking about glorifying misogyny, Parvathy mentioned Mammoottyâ€™s movie Kasaba and said, â€śKasaba is a movie that I watched. I was disappointed to watch an actor par excellence says dialogues to a woman that was not just derogatory, but saddening. Cinema reflects society, many say. But the line to draw is whether to glorify a hero like this or not.â€ť
Geethu recounted the horror of watching a movie in a theater with her father years ago.
"I had acted in the movie. The male actor slapped me and I heard the whole theatre erupt in applause. I was shocked. I asked my father, why were the people celebrating? So itâ€™s the mentality that needs to change!" she said.
Picture by Vyaasan Odanadu