Parvathy Menon, Manju Warrier, Bhavana and others form Women in Cinema Collective


Or, what of the actress who fights a lone battle against the hotel staff who violated her privacy? Some of us were older, some younger, but the questions remained the same. The group that’s now come together in Kerala, defines itself only as a working group and intends to register the organisation very soon. The corollary to the lack of participation of women in the filmmaking process is content. Women are seen as less equal, and lip service is paid to old fashioned notions of protection and care. The Collective’s discussions are broadening thoughts about equality, rights, women’s spaces, transgenders, different ways of looking, content, relationship with co-workers, training programs, and technology. Kerala has a paradoxical situation: development and health indices match that of any European nation, but a deeply embedded patriarchal social system continues to deny women many spaces. Where are wage structures which look objectively at contribution and commerce? This questioning arises from a larger perspective of the worldwide scenario. Many years ago at the International Film Festival of Kerala, a guest asked me if we had any women in Kerala — mostly men had come to watch his film. This move was met with much consternation: from poking fun at a selfie being taken with the CM to suspicion about the “bad portrayal by women” of the Malayalam film industry, the reactions were varied. Jokingly, we say that perhaps a statutory title “no person was discriminated against on the basis of race, religion, caste or gender, in the making of this film” could be an important step! It was almost as if a Pandora’s box had been opened. Malayalam films are considered some of the best in the country but a gender bias is ingrained. 1/3 @WCC_Cinema pic.twitter.com/i9toRtgQsd
— CMO Kerala (@CMOKerala) May 18, 2017
What prompted all of us to suddenly get together? The history of the women’s movement shows us that it was only when impossible questions were asked, that women gained rights and freedom which were unimaginable at some point in history. Just the other day, while browsing through old photographs on location, we saw women only in the background, carrying lights, pulling focus and assisting in carrying equipment — step onto a set in Kerala and except for a handful of women, it’s a totally male dominated space. If I’m a film professional, do I have no maternity, health care or insurance benefits? Demanding an equal space is considered overstepping the line. Membership will be opened and a democratic process of functioning will be followed. On May 18, a group of 15 Malayalee women film professionals met Kerala Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan with a petition, apprising him of the formation of the Women in Cinema Collective and requesting an inquiry into gender issues of the film industry. Women artists of #MalayalamCinema, including #Sundance alum Geetu Mohandas, form new union: http://t.co/vPI6EIu6YB #India #FilmEquality pic.twitter.com/JLA1b1XqVh
— Sundance Institute (@sundanceorg) May 24, 2017
However, what started as a group of women supporting a colleague became a conversation about our profession. We intend to work with all existing organisations and unions within the industry. Women like Geena Davis have, for years, been vociferous critics of the gender imbalance in the media. The Women in Cinema Collective is an amalgam of women who are in the process of raising those questions. The representation of gender in cinema goes a long way in shaping imaginations and identities, aspirations and ambitions. Like any creative profession, the threads are complex. The immediate catalyst was a much-publicised incident that took place with a colleague, who had the guts to speak out. A lot of us have taken things for granted. The study will put forth recommendations based on current legal and gender practices. Women seek a film industry where gender is not a disadvantage. Many years ago Mahatma Gandhi proved that it was the “feminisation” of the freedom struggle that made it so successful. This unnatural skew has led to a whole host of problems. It was only a rare departure from the norm. Women in Cinema Collective have raised concern about the problems women face in the film industry. If I have a security issue while working on a film, and not just on location, who do I go to? Why are there so few women in the Malayalam film industry? On south Mumbai’s streets hundreds of trees being lost to a new Metro line

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Published:June 4, 2017 12:00 am

Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) consists of female actors, directors and technicians. The meeting with the chief minister was crucial because it is only an agency like the government that can study the current status. Why are the Vishakha Guidelines, and subsequent Justice Verma committee report, not applicable in our workspaces? The gender bias in Hollywood is well known. Why does my contract not ensure that I have certain basic facilities available while I’m working? In an age when women did not step out, he motivated them to participate, and be equal stakeholders. Are there stories that women need to tell? Popular depictions teach girls and boys about how culture sees them in turn: their worth, their relative value and the roles they “should” play. Sympathy flowed for her, but nobody seemed to be asking the right questions or providing any answers. The journey is also one ofself-discovery. What about the (in)famous casting couch? Despite all the talk of diversity, the percentage of women directors in Hollywood fell by 2 per cent last year to 7 per cent in 2015, The Guardian reported earlier this year. Unfortunately there is little data available on the current state of affairs. The film industry is similarly ridden by this paradox. (Bina Paul is a member of Women in Cinema Collective & vice chairperson, Kerala State Chalachitra Academy.)

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Where are all the trees gone? The collective then hopes to set up a legal cell, a counselling cell and function as a research and advocacy group. Why are there no informal spaces of interaction where women can participate with dignity? (Photo: Fowzra Fathima )

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