women in bollywood

Over the years, Bollywood has given us a wealth of talent, from great storytellers to costume designers, editors, script supervisors and more. Despite their stellar resumes, however, they run the risk of going unnoticed in a landscape that’s constantly overwhelmed by a glut of content. On Women’s Day, 18 artistes, who have been putting out consistently great work, talk about their breakthrough moment, the work they’re proudest of and the advice they’d give women looking to join the industry. In no particular order:

1. Aastha Khanna, intimacy coordinator

Aastha Khanna

You know her from: The Fame Game, Gehraiyaan

Her breakthrough moment: I was working as an assistant director to Shakun Batra on Gehraiyaan and he sent me an article about an intimacy coordinator. That was the moment I realised that this was the job I wanted to do and bring to India. I did a lot of research on the role of an intimacy co-ordinator and I wrote to a lot of them abroad. One of them was Amanda Blumenthal, the coordinator on Euphoria. She’s also the founder of IPA, the institute I’m certified from. She and I went back and forth on a lot of emails. Those emails made me feel even more assured about the fact that this was the work I wanted to do.

The work she’s proudest of: All scenes of sexual violence are extremely difficult to approach because you not only have to take care of the performers, you have to take care of all the crew around you and make sure that they are comfortable and not getting triggered. And at the same time, you have to do a lot of self-care. I did one gangrape scene for a show recently, and it made me feel so fulfilled as an intimacy coordinator because I felt like I could help facilitate the shooting of a gruesome scene like this in such a smooth, time-efficient and fun way. People weren’t getting in their heads about it at all. Even the performer at the end said, ‘Thank you so much. I was able to give my best through the shot. I felt so safe.’ That gave me a huge thrill.

The advice she would give women looking to break into the field: Do extensive research, and keep educating yourself. This is one of those job roles in which the studying doesn’t end. Practicing empathy on a regular basis is a huge part of the personality of an intimacy coordinator. They are not people who come to a set, coordinate a scene and then go away. An intimacy coordinator has to be someone who is non-judgemental, who is able to correct, if called upon to do so, the filmmaker’s gaze. There are many approaches to intimacy, but one of the greatest is problem-solving, which brings in a lot of creativity. An understanding of consent and boundaries is basic, so somebody who wants to become an intimacy coordinator should start working towards these things.

What she’s working on next: Cobalt Blue, Four More Shots Please season 3, Yaar Dosti, Saas Bahu aur Cocaine, Choona and R Balki’s next film.

2. Sita Menon, writer

Sita Menon

You know her from: Shor In The City, Go Goa Gone, 99

Her breakthrough moment: I didn’t start as a film writer, I was a journalist. Meeting Raj and DK was just happenstance and then it boomeranged into a film career. For 10 years of my life, I juggled a day job and writing for film on the side. But writing Raj and DK’s Shahid Kapoor series, which will release on Amazon Prime Video by the end of this year, is what made me realise how far I’d come in terms of the way I think about stories, the way I construct them, the way I write now. So it took me this long to have my breakthrough moment.

The work she’s proudest of: Everything in the new series, Citadel:India, I’m working on. It’s just been head-breaking to the point where I avoid writing. I don’t even look at it, then I get to it and then I bang my head, but then finally when a scene takes shape and the story flows, that’s when I have this huge moment of, ‘Okay! I can write!’ Plotting action is proving to be a challenge. It can’t be just bang-bang, boom-boom, dhad-dhad or just mindless gore and violence for the sake of it. It has to convey something about the character. Balancing the thrills vs the emotions in the show has also been challenging.

The advice she would give women looking to break into the field: There’s no other solution, you have to write. I’m a procrastinator of the worst kind. I struggle with discipline every single day. But then at the end of the day, I just have to sit my ass down and write. That’s the only thing. Being a writer is a very solo and lonely space to be in because you work in absolute solitude. It’s not like a corporate job where you’re in your office interacting with people. No, it’s just you inside your brain. You’ll be plagued by countless self-doubts. So my only advice is: Keep at it.

What she’s working on next: I’ve finished writing a Shahid Kapoor series. I’m the lead writer on Citadel: India. I’m also writing a feature film for Nikhil Dwivedi.

3. Sanyukta Kaza, editor

Sanyukta kaza

You know her from: Paatal Lok, Tumbbad, Ankahi Kahaniyaan, Mismatched, Unpaused, Love Per Square Foot

Her breakthrough moment: If I ever think that I’ve made it, I would probably just quit. I like the anxiety that I feel each time I start a new project, I get excited when I read an exceptional script, I hyperventilate during my first-cut screenings. I enjoy all of it. The day I feel confident is the day I’ll stop working. What’s the point otherwise? 

The work she’s proudest of: Madhyantar, a short film by Abhishek Chaubey,  is very special to me. If you closely look at it, you will find that the entire film is a montage with almost no dialogue.

The advice she would give women looking to break into the field: Read. Watch. Work. Read and watch anything and everything that’s stupendous. Be disciplined and resilient. Show up to work every day. These are basic virtues that can take you a long way.

What she’s working on next: I have a lot of work lined up but don’t want to jinx it by talking about it.

4. Preetisheel Singh, makeup artist/prosthetics designer

preetisheel singh

You know her from: Gangubai Kathiawadi, Bunty Aur Babli 2, Raat Akeli Hai, Panga, Chhichhore

Her breakthrough moment: Winning the National Film Award for Best Make-up Artist for Nanak Shah Fakir (2014). It was not a commercial film so it was incredible to be recognised for it. My second breakthrough moment was when I started working with Sanjay Leela Bhansali. The level of creativity and freedom he gave me was something I had never experienced before. 

18 Women In Hindi Cinema You Must Know, Film Companion

The work she’s proudest of: Establishing a prosthetics lab in 2015. It’s the first of its kind in India. I started with one room in my house. Now I have two labs and 40 to 45 people working for me. I have reached a certain level where I can do anything you ask in terms of hair, make-up, prosthetics, design, body painting or dental jobs. And I can do it all under one roof. Whether it’s making a prosthetic nose, creating a hair texture like we did for Alia Bhatt in Gangubai Kathiawadi or finding substitutes for imported materials because silicone doesn’t work well with certain chemicals, years of experimentation have gone into my work. So when I see the end result, I feel proud.

The advice she would give women looking to break into the field: You need a lot of patience and dedication for this kind of work. Every step in this process is tedious. It’s not an easy job, so you should be ready to put in hours of work. Plus you’ve got to have a passion for it. If you don’t, you will feel tired and worn out.

What she’s working on next: Pushpa 2, a South Indian web series called The Village, OMG 2, Ram Setu, Bachchan Pandey and a bit of Pathan

5. Theia Tekchandaney, costume designer

Theia Tekchandaney

You know her from: Decoupled, Aarya, Bhaag Beanie Bhaag, Neerja, Padman, Dear Zindagi, Mission Mangal

Her breakthrough moment: My first film, Aks (2001). Right since then, I’ve had the privilege of working with a lot of talented filmmakers. It’s been a great learning and a fun experience.

The work she’s proudest of: Aarya is extremely close to my heart. It was fun because we got to create a very modern Indian world. When we look at Rajasthan, we think of ghagra-cholis, poshaks, dhotis and turbans. That’s how the West perceives India. But Jaipur has a very modern, thriving design space there and a lot of modern Indian brands there. People are just as contemporary there as they are in Bombay. I wanted to showcase that. 

The advice she would give women looking to break into the field: With costume design, you really need to learn on the job. Each project is completely different from the last. One day you’ll be doing some wonderful contemporary clothing, and the next, you’ll be doing something from the hinterland. So just be open and ready to learn. If you’re someone who can adapt to situations easily, then costume design is the right fit for you. You could get stuck doing the same things sometimes because his industry is great at putting people in brackets. People will say, ‘Oh she is very good at period clothing, or crafty things, or modern outfits.’ So you have to constantly challenge yourself and stay away from that trap.

What she’s working on next: Dharma Productions’ Production No. 90, a Netflix show called Rana Naidu and Fukrey 3.

6. Yasha Ramchandani, editor

Yasha Ramchandani

Her breakthrough moment: There have been several. I think of them as moments of grace, when everything just aligns and creates a moment of truth or joy. That’s when I feel like I want to keep on doing this.

The work she’s proudest of: Thappad is close to me. It wasn’t as plot-driven as most commercial films often are. Beyond the obvious task of keeping the momentum going after the one big incident that happens, I found the film in its silences and pauses, which was both a challenge and a delight.

The advice she would give women looking to break into the field: Read enough, watch enough films, listen to music, live enough of a life outside of work. Keep nourishing your inner sanctum so that once you are at work, you can draw from it like a well. Protect yourself and don’t get depleted too soon.

What she’s working on next: Anubhav Sinha’s Anek, the second season of Netflix’s Mismatched, YRF’s The Railway Men (YRF) and short films directed by Hansal Mehta and Alankrita Shrivastava.

7. Rita Ghosh, production designer

Rita ghosh

You know her from: Out of Love, Raat Akeli Hai, Sonchiriya, Gurgaon, Manto Raid, Mission Majnu

Her breakthrough moment: When I joined FTII. A year later, I realised that this was something I wanted to pursue. Before that, all I wanted to do was advertising. It was all I was exposed to. I did my Bachelor’s in Advertising and I had no clue what art direction was. After I joined FTII, I was exposed to that world and learned so much, I knew this is what I wanted to have a career in.

The work she’s proudest of: Manto (2018). I was so nervous about the film but it was a great learning experience. It was hard to find archives and documentation of life at that time. I eventually found Life Magazine, which had a lot of Partition-era photos of the country but there were still few resources to rely upon. 

The advice she would give women looking to break into the field: You need passion and good observation skills. 

What she’s working on next: A Nandita Das film and a Netflix series called Bihar Diaries.

8. Tanya Paul Singh, script supervisor

Tanya Paul singh

Her breakthrough moment: Aarya. It was a breakaway from the traditional film shoot. The show relies entirely on the organic flow of a scene. A take could last up to 25 minutes. Someone who has been a script supervisor for a while will not find it hard to memorise what’s supposed to be said and done for a one-minute-long or five-minute-long take, as opposed to something that is 20 minutes long. So it was a challenge for me. We were all on talk-backs. So, for example, if an actress has to open the fridge and take something out with her right hand, you have to make sure that she’s not using her left hand when ‘Cut’ is called. If she uses her left hand, you have to tell her immediately or the moment is gone. It really keeps you on your toes.

The work she’s proudest of: Aarya. I have done nearly 20 films so far so I don’t find stuff challenging anymore but the show was really hard for the first few days. I was trying to understand how the process works, how Ram Madhvani works as a director. Then when I got in sync with everyone, it went smoothly

The advice she would give women looking to break into the field: This is a very tough job. But if you love cinema and you love how a scene on paper is translated into a scene onscreen, if you understand how actors work and what their characters require them to do, that will give you an upper hand. I’ve been an actor so memorising lines is easy for me. I can catch changes to the script easily and instantly. I can even spot mishaps in action continuity. This job is usually a stepping stone. Assistant directors do this and then become directors. The job helps you understand scenes, how they’re edited, how character graphs are plotted. So if you’re planning to be a director, start by being a script supervisor because that’s where the learning begins.

What she’s working on next: Web series for MTV Studio and Voot.

9. Shreya Dev Dube, cinematographer

shreya dev dube

You know her from: Bittu, Cat Sticks, Thar

Her breakthrough moment: Working as part of the camera crew with cinematographer Declan Quinn and director Mira Nair on A Suitable Boy. To be a part of a crew that included artists with such skill was a thrill. 

The work she’s proudest of: I loved shooting the sequence in Ronny Sen’s Cat Sticks, in which the addicts dance while searching for a vein. 

The advice she would give women looking to break into the field: It’s crucial to have a strong foundation. The rest will follow. Take care of your mind and body. you will need your strength.

What she’s working on next: Netflix’s revenge noir thriller, Thar.

10. Sonia Kanwar, creative producer

sonia kanwar

You know her from: Dhamaka, Rashmi Rocket, Mismatched, Raat Akeli Hai, Uri: The Surgical Strike, Ghost Stories, Lust Stories, Sonchiriya

Her breakthrough moment: Uri: The Surgical Strike (2019). I fought against all odds to make it happen. My director had a vision, but this was his first film. I got a small budget and had to try and make everything work within that. It didn’t make sense on paper. But the film’s release was a massive turning point for me in terms of confidence. I was validated and I knew that I was on the right track. For a long time, I worked as an assistant director, who is hired when the film is in the pre-production stage. I always wanted to be part of the phase before that — being involved with development, putting together actors and writers, finding a director — all that excited me.

The work she’s proudest of: Working as an assistant director on Slumdog Millionaire (2008). It was shot on-location, in the slums. We had a foreign crew, so there was a language barrier, and I had to relay everything that the director wanted the slum kids to do, to them. It was stressful. I was working with people who were not trained actors. It was an amazing film but at the same time, I was dealing with very real people. Don 2 (2011) was the first large-scale film I worked on. We had to set up between seven and 13 cameras for the big action sequences. Even Uri was hard because we had only 45 days to shoot.

The advice she would give women looking to break into the field: You need to be extremely solution-oriented. If a certain location doesn’t work out or you need 500 extras for a shot and many don’t show up, you need to say things like: Okay, if you shoot it from this angle, you won’t need more than a 100 extras. You need to go for recces so you have alternative locations. The director, heads of departments and assistant directors won’t respect you if you’re an outsider. You’ve got to be an insider. You’ve got to care about the film and be protective and defensive of it so when you’re making hard calls, you are doing so from an informed point of view.

What she’s working on next: The Hindi films Sitara, Chhatriwali and Captain India. Also a Hindi film adaptation of the Phantom Comics.

11. Neha Parti Matiyani, cinematographer

neha parti matiyani

You know her from: Rashmi Rocket, Four More Shots Please, Badrinath Ki Dulhania, Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania

Her breakthrough moment: I thought I had made it when I had just arrived in Bombay and started assisting Ravi K Chandran, then when I got my first film with YRF and went on to shoot films with Dharma, then again when I shot one of the first Indian web series for Amazon, and again when I shot my first sports film. But each time I felt like I had made it, I realised that there are always bigger and better things ahead. I feel the real breakthrough moment will happen when women start getting equity of opportunity. The pool of projects available to DOPs who aren’t women is far bigger and better in scope than what is generally available to women DOPs. I’d like that to change.

The work she’s proudest of: Rashmi Rocket. We shot under strict Covid protocols and I was pregnant at the time. We were shooting challenging race sequences with multiple cameras. But this is a loaded question. Whenever a creative person thinks that they have delivered their best is when they stop growing.

The advice she would give women looking to break into the field: Shoot, shoot and then shoot some more. The only way to get better at your job is to do it as much as you can, as often as you can and to never get flustered by any situation. Never ever stop learning. The day you stop learning is the day you stop growing. Most people look at insecurity as a bad thing but I don’t. Confidence and insecurity can and should exist together. Confidence is key to being good at your job, insecurity is key to keeping yourself relevant and free of overconfidence. Use insecurity as a motivation, but stay confident in your ability.

What she’s working on next: I’m just getting back in the saddle after a maternity break so I’ve been taking meetings and trying to figure out what’s a good fit for me.

12. Meghna Gandhi, production designer

meghna gandhi

You know her from: Rocket Boys, Pink, Manmarziyaan, Yeh Meri Family, Manorama Six Feet Under

Her breakthrough moment: I’d been doing ad films for years and those don’t really give you breakthrough moments because they’re very short term. Such work comes and goes. The first feature film I did that got recognised was Pink (2016). I did that after a gap of 10 years in my career. That was a breakthrough moment. Another was Rocket Boys. The kind of appreciation I’ve been getting for it has been overwhelming. 

The work she’s proudest of: Rocket Boys. A lot of production designers stay away from doing period films and shows because even if a director asks for something as simple as a pen and a paper, you can’t go to the stationary shop and get materials from there. They have to belong to the correct era. If you’ve watched the show, you’ll notice that we used yellow-tinted papers of that time, never pure white papers. It was a big project, one that had to be scientifically and historically accurate.

The advice she would give women looking to break into the field: There is a lot of scope in this field. Every time you think that you’ve maxed your creativity, another project comes along and you get the chance to do it all over again. Each project is a chance to outdo yourself. The timings may seem a bit odd, though. It’s not a corporate 9-5 job. We really don’t have a routine, but this job will give you creative satisfaction and the field is big enough that you’ll never run out of work.

What she’s working on next: Season 2 of Rocket Boys. 

13. Ishita Moitra, screenplay and dialogue writer

ishita moitra

You know her from: Unpaused, Four More Shots Please, Shakuntala Devi, Maska, The Test Case

Her breakthrough moment: When Four More Shots Please got nominated for the International Emmys in 2020. It was surreal. Another breakthrough moment was when Karan Johar called and asked me to write the screenplay of Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani, which is my next release. These are two career-defining moments.

The work she’s proudest of: Writing the four girls of Four More Shots Please is not easy because all of them are distinct individuals. I was simultaneously working on Shakuntala Devi (2020), based on a real-life person who also happened to be a math genius. So I had to watch a lot of her videos and make sure the dialogue didn’t deviate from who she was. 

The advice she would give women looking to break into the field: Keep writing, but also read your work out to people. Being a dialogue writer is a little different from being a screenplay writer. Every time you read your work out loud, you’ll notice that there is a lot of stuff that people don’t actually say. For example, you don’t really speak in full sentences all the time. You can say a few words and the person next to you will understand what you’re saying. Each time you read your work aloud, you’ll keep refining it and making it more real. Your dialogues need to feel like a real person is saying them. So read them to at least five people.

What she’s working on next: Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani, another film with Dharma, a show for Amazon Prime Video and Four More Shots Please season 3.

14. Shruti Mahajan, casting director

shruti mahajan

You know her from: Aashram, Gangubai Kathiawadi, Bombay Begums, The Big Bull, The Zoya Factor, Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare, Padman

Her breakthrough moment: I was working in the HR department of a bank when I quit and joined YRF as a casting assistant in 2012. After just three months, I knew that this is what I wanted to do and that this was where I belonged. Those three months were so satisfying that I knew there was no looking back. It reassured me that I belonged to the world of filmmaking.

The work she’s proudest of: I am extremely proud of Gangubai Kathiawadi. Sanjay Leela Bhansali first contacted me a decade ago asking me to work on it. It would’ve been my first independent project but it didn’t work out. The fact that it happened now makes me feel like life has come full circle. Plus everyone is raving about it, and loving the cast. 

The advice she would give women looking to break into the field: Be here for the right reasons. Don’t get into casting as a stop-gap arrangement. Most actors want to be casting directors because they feel that if they’ve not made it in the world of acting, then this is an easy stepping stone. But it’s a beautiful profession if you give your heart and soul to it. And it’s a job that gives you a work-life balance. I don’t take up every project that comes my way. Intuition and instinct are all a good casting director needs. If you have both, you can never go wrong. 

What she’s working on next: A Netflix series, an Amazon Prime Video series, Ram Setu, three projects for Abundantia Entertainment, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Heera Mandi and two of R Balki’s films.

15. Sanober Pardiwalla, stuntwoman

sanober pardiwalla

You know her from: Gehraiyaan, Bunty Aur Babli 2, Atrangi Re, Race 3, Jagga Jasoos, Udta Punjab, Bajirao Mastani, Raavan, Kahaani 2, Ghajini

Her breakthrough moment: Day 1 of my first stunt, which was a Nakshatra ad in which I was Aishwarya Rai’s stunt double. She was playing a jewel thief so I had to jump from a 30-foot height, perform a couple of somersaults and then pass through laser beams in a gymnastic way. I realised I was good at my work, so why not pursue it? I not only understood the stunt, but also how lighting and body language play a role, especially your hair and your hands. You have to let your hair cover your face so that no one realises that it’s a stuntwoman and not the actress. Grasping all of this was a breakthrough for me.

The work she’s proudest of: I was nominated for the Taurus World Stunt Award for Raavan (2010), in which I had to jump off a cliff and fall through tree branches and rocks, and then finally land in a river. It was a good 350-foot fall through a waterfall in Kerala. It was a rainforest so my costume was wet and the rocks were slippery. Since I was at the top of the waterfall and the rest of the crew were waiting below, I couldn’t hear them even though they were screaming into the mic. It’s one of my proudest achievements because Taurus’ Foreign Action Film Category gets submissions from around the world and only the top 5 get selected. And one was mine.

The advice she would give women looking to break into the field: I would advise women to have an alternative career because you don’t get work as a stuntwoman 30 days a month. And it’s not a 24-hour job. Even then there are risks. Say you fracture your ankle. You will take 3 or 6 months to recover but you still won’t be able to jump from a 3-foot-height post recovery. These injuries restrict you. So I would tell women who are interested in getting into stunt work to train, work hard, and then work harder. Each day, beat whatever you did the previous day, but also have an alternative career. This is just me being realistic.

What she’s working on next: YRF’s Production No. 90, Netflix’s Soup and an Anushka Sharma film.

16. Manuja Tyagi, script supervisor

manuja tyagi

You know her from: BellBottom, Feels Like Ishq, Uri: The Surgical Strike, Shakuntala Devi, Aarya, Chef, Rock On 2 

Her breakthrough moment: The first film I did was Monsoon Shootout (2013), in which the narrative was repeated thrice. So we shot the same narrative thrice, but in three different ways which was a challenge. After that, I took up a film called David, which was shot in two languages and had three films within the film so we were working with three different crews. Our cinematographers changed, the actors changed, our locations changed. I also did Rock On!! 2, which had a lot of concerts and pre-recorded sessions and a stylised filmmaking technique. That project completely changed my perspective in terms of filmmaking. It pushed me to look beyond my profile and think of the larger picture. My prep changed after that. I started looking at films in their entirety, from production design to costumes. 

The work she’s proudest of: Aarya. Each episode was divided between directors so it’s not like we had the same director every day. The track continued from one director to another. So if we were shooting one scene, that scene would later be continued by another director, and then concluded by a third. Aarya was well-scheduled but there were a few days when it would get a little tricky and we would spill over to the next day and have to catch up. It was a tight schedule, but not unreasonably so.

The advice she would give women looking to break into the field: You have to think like a director and be with the director every step of the way. When you read the script, you have to question why a certain character is doing what they’re doing. Why are they at a certain location? If you don’t know the story and the script by heart, the way the director or most of the HoDs do, you won’t be able to do a good job of spotting continuity errors. A film is shot over so many days and not in a linear order. So if you have a grasp of the story, an otherwise meticulous task will become easy.

What she’s working on next: I’m being approached for script supervision, but I’ve been saying no to projects because I want to get into directing.

17. Monisha Advani and Madhu Bhojwani, producers and partners of Emmay Entertainment  

monisha advani and madhu bhojwani

You know them from: D-Day, Airlift, BellBottom, Satyameva Jayate, Batla House

Monisha Advanis’s breakthrough moment: I had the good fortune to meet the family of Abhay Pannu, who directed Rocket Boys. His mother and sister were so gratified with his work. That moment made me realise that it’s not just a single technician who works on our projects, it’s his entire family that also commits to the process. It was very humbling and a big responsibility. 

Madhu Bhojwani’s breakthrough moment: Our first taste of success came from Airlift (20160. It was an interesting and defining moment, in which we not only experienced financial success but also a lot of critical acclaim and public adulation for the film.

The work Monisha Advani’s proudest of: The first film we made, D-Day (2013). I don’t come from the industry and it just fascinated me to see all the moving parts come together. It was one of my most challenging experiences because the level of detail and effort that went into it made me realise how stupidly, as an audience, we comment on films without realising the blood, sweat and tears that go into them. Going from a boardroom environment to a set was a physically demanding experience. 

The work Madhu Bhojwani’s proudest of: The last two years have been challenging and trying for many. Fortunately for our Emmay entertainment, we had quite a few projects under production during the pandemic. As a team, we really put our resources together and overcame several hurdles during this period. We released three big shows: Empire, Mumbai Diaries and now Rocket Boys. All of these were baked during the pandemic, they’re all very diverse, and each of them have found their space in the sun and been appreciated for different reasons.

The advice Monisha Advani would give women looking to break into the field: It’s a great time to be a woman and a woman entrepreneur. It’s not easy but it’s easier. While the film industry is targeted often for its biases and misogyny, I also think that it’s a very liberating environment that gives a lot of respect to women technicians. To be a good producer, you need to have patience. Every other industry that I’ve had the good fortune to be associated with, I’ve found that there was a very clear time-frame. Here, it’s like planting seeds and not knowing when you’ll see the sapling. 

The advice Madhu Bhojwani would give women looking to break into the field: You have to live with what you call Murphy’s Law. Production is such a dynamic function that things will go wrong when you least expect them to. So it’s critical for anyone interested in this field to be resilient and have that drive to work against all odds. 

What they’re working on next: Rocket Boys Season 2, Mumbai Diaries season 2 and Mrs. Chatterjee vs Norway, starring Rani Mukerji. 

18. Archana Phadke, writer/director

archana phadke

Her breakthrough moment: I graduated in Biotechnology. When I did a small course at the Xavier’s Institute of Communication, I’d never seen world cinema before. I had grown up on Bollywood. I had always seen films as an escape, not as a career. During this course, we were shown Amélie (2001) and that was a life-changing moment. I didn’t know films could be that magical or that directors could have the ability to take you to a space like that and share a dream of sorts with you. That was the moment I decided that this was what I wanted to do. I thought it would be nice to make people feel the way that film had made me feel.

The work she’s proudest of: I made a film about my family called About Love (2019). The process of making a film changes you. It took four years to make this film and during that time, I realised that your characters don’t remain within the roles you assign them, they transform themselves and they reveal something to you that you didn’t know existed. I didn’t really know who my family was till I made the film. They each diverged from the role I had assigned to them and I started seeing them as individuals, as so much more than my relatives. 

The advice she would give women looking to break into the field: Our professor would tell us that we need to have, ‘Feel, belief and commitment.’ Films are not easy to make. They require team effort, it’s not a solo job. So become a family with your team. You’ll are going to put forth something that needs all your energies, your beliefs and your commitment. I always say that filmmakers need to be a little delusional, they need to be a dreamer of sorts. Things take time, but you need to keep at it. 

What she’s working on next: I’m doing a three-month-long residency in film in Berlin and developing a project I’ve written with my mentors here. It’s a story of two women set in the chawls of Bombay. It’s about the loss of one’s home and how people react to that and how the city is transforming and losing some of its charm.

As told to Gayle Sequeira.

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