In the last few years, the women of Hindi film industry have been more vocal than usual about dealing with entrenched gender disparity in their professional lives. Actresses openly discuss pay gaps between them and their male counterparts and, reiterate the need for more equitable female representation on camera and off it.
All this talk has moved the needle, to a minuscule degree perhaps, in favour of female-oriented roles. A number of successful films in 2016 – Dangal, Pink, Neerja, Udta Punjab, to name a few – featured meaty parts for women. But crucially, some of the most progressive female-centric movies are still directed by men.
Films made by female directors represent a minority despite the debate around gender diversity in the industry. In a statistical analysis conducted by Ormax between 2010 and 2016, the percentage of female directors making mainstream films in the industry has remained more or less stagnant.
(Note: only films that released in 100 or more screens across the country have been considered for the study)
2016 provided the most improved statistic of the period with 12% of the major films released (10 out of 82) being directed by women. That is a 6% spike from 2015 (4 out of 71). Every other year has remained in the 6-7% range with 2013 marking a low of 3%.
Lack of gender diversity behind the camera is not a phenomenon unique to Bollywood. Early this month, The Hollywood Reporter published a study that revealed that female filmmakers made up only 7% of all directors of the top 250 movies in 2016.Last year’s growth is heartening and hopefully, a sign of better things to come. However, unless there is a steady upswing in the numbers of female directors making big-ticket movies in the subsequent years, this surge might just be an exception to the norm.
Equal opportunity for female filmmakers might be hot button conversation topic in Bollywood but the sentiment deserves to be backed by institutional changes on the ground for the industry’s skewed male-female director ratio to start showing some dramatic change.
Knowledge Partner – Ormax Media