The gender disparity in south Indian cinema industries was evident at the launch of a newly instituted awards ceremony at Malleshwaram's Mantri Mall.
The newly instituted awards for the Kannada film industry saw a bevy of stars land at the venue on Monday. However, although prominent women actors were invited, the video that was screened on the history of Kannada cinema did not include the contribution of any woman actor - not a single one.
Strongly reacting to this, actor Sparsha Rekha pointed out that popular actors like Jayanti, who have contributed extensively towards Kannada cinema had not been given their due.
â€śWhat happened to all the women in the history of Kannada cinema? Were there not any female actors then? Why are they not being recognised? What about Jayanti Maâ€™am and the industry veterans?â€ť she questioned.
Conversations on gender equality in cinema are just beginning in Sandalwood. While a few filmmakers are trying their hand at making women-centric films, women actors are still portrayed as props in most of the commercial hits.
Speaking to TNM on the sidelines of the launch, Kannada actors expressed their views on the male dominated industry.
â€śObviously men are given more importance in Sandalwood. The clichĂ© of remuneration being based on box office hits is still present. It is believed that no one will come to watch the film if it surrounds one woman â€“ if it is woman centric. I think this has to change eventually. Hopefully, it might change in the coming years,â€ť said Manvitha Harish, who starred in Kendasampige.
Pointing out that female actors are discriminated against not only in terms of remuneration but also when it comes to the kind of roles that they get to play, Shruthi Hariharan, who has acted in films like Lucia and Godhi Banna Sadharana Maikattu, said that inequality still exists in the industry.
â€śIt is true that whatever is the reality reflects in cinema. Thus, cinema too has been very male dominated. Hero worship is something which has been happening since the beginning of cinema. But over the last 20 years, we have seen a change. But still, in the cinema space, gender inequality definitely exists. I am not talking about this in terms of pay, but Iâ€™m also talking about this in terms of opportunities, in terms of the kind of scripts that are written and in terms of the kind of scripts that become popular and commercially successful,â€ť Shruthi said.
With filmmakers trying to create women-centric films, Sandalwood actors feel that there is a gradual shift from scripts which treat women actors as objects to more respectful narratives.
â€śA lot has been spoken about the industry being male dominated, but I feel like it is changing right now. There are women-centric roles and there are roles written for women at par with men. The scenario is changing and I am happy to be a part of the industry at a time where the change is happening. Be it my first film Rangitaranga or my recent film Kaafi Thota, I have got to play really strong characters. I feel that people are accepting this whole-heartedly. Because the people are accepting this, the filmmakers are also welcoming it. I am happy that things are changing,â€ť said Radhika Chetan.
Shruthi feels that women must also actively try their hand at direction and script-writing.
â€śWhen we look at the big names in the industry, it is usually men. I think a solution to this problem could be that we as women can come out to make movies. To not just be those who are in front of the camera but also be behind it. It could be in terms of production, writing, direction," she said.
Like Radhika, Shruthi also feels that things are slowly changing.
"I think there is a positive change. In Kannada, we have Sumana Kittur, who has been making female-centric movies. Kirugoorina Gayyaligalu is one such film. I have been trying to find producers and investors for female dominated films. I am hoping it comes through. I am hoping that the audience accepts it. The audience needs to accept it and only then can you create more such stuff. Only then can you pump in more money to make women-centric films,â€ť Shruthi added.