Today, Bollywood has become more sympathetic towards female issues, their desires and aspirations. The current generation has female actors and filmmakers who are taking charge and calling the shots. They are bolder in their choices, and fiercer in their performances.
On Women's Day, indianexpress.com spoke to several women in the Hindi film industry about how it is to find a footing in an industry which till recently was dominated by men, and whether surviving has become any less challenging.
Here are excerpts from conversations:
Taapsee Pannu (Actor)
Taapsee, who had a fabulous 2018 after headlining Manmarziyaan and Mulk, began 2019 on a rough note when the makers of Pati Patni Aur Woh allegedly replaced the actor without informing her.
Pointing out the same, she shared, "The struggle is real. I still hear things from producers like 'I will first go to the hero and get a go ahead. On the basis of that I will decide who the heroine will be'.
"Today women are choosing what they want. 2018 helped me gain confidence that our audience is now ready to see a female protagonist who doesn't need to be a conventional righteous character but can be more real and believable," she added.
Richa Chadha (Actor)
Richa, who will soon be seen in the biopic Shakeela, added, "In this industry it is always difficult for women but only in comparison to men. It's a tough business to survive in regardless of gender. I haven't always been tough or headstrong or opinionated. In the beginning of my career, I was often gullible and stupid. I would lose good opportunities to more scheming actresses. But now I have learnt not to be a sitting duck."
"Today if I sense that someone is trying to bully me, I don't cow down under pressure. I am straight forward when it comes to what I need and I think this policy works very well for me. Especially in context of how the business operates overall because most people lie so that they don't offend the other person," she said.
Sarvnik Kaur (Independent Filmmaker)
National Award-winning director Sarvnik Kaur shared, "I have noticed how men in creative fields seem so self-assured. I blame it on how we are conditioned differently. But I believe that is a great plus for women who do non-fiction storytelling. Real people respond well to imperfections and intuitively trust women to be more compassionate and empathetic."
Harshdeep Kaur (Singer)
Singer Harshdeep Kaur, who carved her own path from being a reality show winner to one of the leading female voices in Bollywood, said, "Because there are more male dominated movies, the songs are also mostly male dominated. Thankfully, the trend seems to be changing with more female oriented movies like Raazi, Manmarziyaan, Hichki, etc."
Kanika Dhillon (Screenwriter)
Kanika Dhillon's stories not just have very strong women characters, but she also excel in unleashing their unspoken dreams. Having written Manmarziyaan and Kedarnath, Kanika said, "I love being a woman in a man's world!"
The writer, whose next is Mental Hai Kya, added, "I feel I find my footing with my stories and characters which are at par with any of my male counterparts. I believe being a writer and author is gender neutral as ideas cannot and should not have a sexual preference or domination!"
Having said that, she however asserted that if we must view it from a gender perspective then "As the traditional wisdom dictates, emotions, complications and feelings are best understood by a woman!"
Alankrita Shrivastava (Filmmaker)
The helmer of films like Lipstick Under My Burkha, Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare and the web series Made in Heaven, Alankrita Shrivastava opined, "I want audiences in India to open their hearts to stories told by women about women, particularly, smaller independent films. Also, it is crucial that there is better representation of women behind the camera.
"When there are more and more women making, shooting, writing and producing films, there is going to be a fundamental shift in the way women are represented on screen. We will have films that are far more sensitive and layered. When fifty percent of all films are made by women, we actually cannot even imagine the kind of change that is likely to be there in cinema."
Maanvi Gagroo (Actor)
Maanvi, whose recent web show Four More Shots Please revolves around the ambitions and insecurities of a bunch of female friends, reiterated Alankrita's words. She said, "When I say that we need more women filmmakers, it's just to have a different gaze. When you see a scene for a movie made by a woman, the sensibilities will be very different. If you have a sex scene directed by a man and one by a woman, there's a difference."
Amandeep Kaur (Stylist)
Celebrity stylist Amandeep Kaur, whose clientele includes Vicky Kaushal, Ishaan Khatter, Taapsee Pannu and Angira Dhar, opined, "This is one of the rare industries where one finds women leading businesses and running 'the show'. At the same time, when I find myself in non-fashion groups, some find my profession very glamorous, while some take the industry as frivolous and do not even regard us as significant contributors of the society."