Bollywood's women share their success mantra
With International Women’s Day two days away, we ask some successful women in cinema to part with one valuable advice that they would give young ladies in their field
The fact that Bollywood is largely male dominated is well known. However, over the years, several women have not only managed to make a mark in the industry, but an increasing number of them continue to throng fields which were long considered a man’s domain. With International Women’s Day around the corner, we speak to women in various fields of filmmaking, who are masters of their trade, about what it takes to be a woman in this industry and ask them for tips on how to keep going.
Richa Chadda, actress
Known for her unconventional choice of films, Chadha made her debut with 'Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!' and went on to do critically acclaimed roles in 'Gangs Of Wasseypur', 'Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela' and 'Masaan'.
Bollywood, for actresses, is still a male-dominated domain and expectations from women are different. For instance, from wearing a chiffon saree to doing an action sequence, you are always expected to look stunning, no matter what. Also, people in the industry perceive you differently once you are married or have a baby. There are way too may dynamics to discuss but people are way more critical of women.
Don’t compare yourself with anyone
I have garnered fame in the past three to four years and that’s the result of hard work, luck and getting the right opportunities. Everyone in this industry works hard to be where they are. Whether you appreciate their work, or give enough credit to them is a different matter altogether, but that’s the truth. Having been around for a while, I would say that it’s very important to be patient and understand the fact that everyone takes different means to be successful and defines success in their own way. You can’t sit back and compare yourself with others. You have to chart your own course.
Kausar Munir, lyricist
Munir began her career with writing for the television show 'Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin' and has written songs for films like 'Ishaqzaade', 'Ek Tha Tiger' and 'Dhoom 3'.
I think that things are looking up for female lyricists in Bollywood and an increasing number are getting opportunities to showcase their skills. The ratio might be lesser compared to men, but I am cautiously optimistic. I don’t see anyone’s work being judged based on gender. However, having said that, I feel that people behind the scenes are judged mostly on the quality of their skills.
Whichever field you may choose, there are no guidelines or handbooks. Everyone has to find his or her own way. I think the awareness of what novelty one can bring in helped me. Humility and strength comes from knowing what you can do and what you can’t and pretending to be someone else is doing disservice to yourself. The same thing goes for gender. Embrace being a woman or a man and flaunt with that identity. Honestly, if I try to be one of the guys, it’s not going to help. But if I am going to be a friendly woman without the baggage of being one, I am bound to go a long way.
Shruti Mahajan, casting director
Mahajan began her career as a casting assistant and is responsible for casting films like 'Bajirao Mastani', 'Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela', 'Mary Kom', 'Shamitabh', 'Bobby Jasoos' and 'Finding Fanny'.
There is no short cut to making it big. If you have the correct intention and focus on your job, you will survive no matter which field you are in, whether you are a man or a woman. In fact, as a casting director, I feel that this field of filmmaking is not a man’s domain anymore. Women today have an edge over men in this field because it requires one to possess soft skills, which women naturally own.
My male contemporaries have guided and supported me as well.
If someone focuses on the job and takes it up for all the right reasons, he/she is bound to survive. I didn’t take casting up because it looked easy. I came into the field because of my passion for cinema. You just have to be good at your job.
Deepa Bhatia, editor
Having worked on films such as 'Kai Po Che', 'Taare Zameen Par', 'Rock On!' and 'Student Of The Year', among others, Bhatia has made a mark as an editor.
I cut my first film when I was 23 and the editing industry then was male dominated. However, Renu Saluja’s (Parinda) success at that point of time made me believe that all of us women could do it. And look how far we have come now. You pick 10 films today and women would have edited at least four to five of them. You can equally name five top men editors and women editors. It’s an open forum.
Hang in there
The nature of the job is such that you get better with time. Every editor needs to be patient and just hang in there. I struggled during my first few films, as I was apprehensive about doing it correctly and doing it well. I often questioned myself whether I knew all that is there to know about the craft because I was self-taught. However, I stuck around and it got better. Recognition, money and wisdom doesn’t come overnight; you need to give it time. I have seen newcomers who were good, quitting because the pay was less but I would want to ask them to hold on and everything will fall into place. It did for me.
Hetal Dedhia, gaffer (light designer)
Asia’s only woman gaffer till date, Hetal has worked on Bollywood films such as 'Don', 'Luck By Chance' and 'Guzaarish' as well as international productions, including 'Eat, Pray, Love' and 'MI 4: The Ghost Protocol'. She is the daughter of Mulchand Dedhia, a celebrated gaffer.
Academics wasn’t for me and I dropped out of school after the 10th standard, and began working immediately. It was an awkward feeling when I started; people didn’t believe in me and thought I would give up soon. However, that only strengthened my goals. Getting into a non-woman zone thrilled me and I haven’t regretted it even one bit. As for surviving, it wasn’t difficult. I know women do not become gaffers for various reasons but it’s a great place to be. I embraced being a light designer and focused on the job, and the respect I got in return was unimaginable.
Nothing is impossible
Everyone’s journey is different and difficult as far as being a gaffer is concerned but the only tip I could give is that once you know that this is what you want, just go for it. Nothing is impossible and you can do wonders. Once they get into gaffering, women will realise how satisfying it is as a career.