Earlier this year, I went for a workshop at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). As an exercise, all the students were asked to cut a scene from Guru. It was the scene in which Abhishek Bachchan’s character comes to Aishwarya Rai’s character’s house to ask for her hand in marriage. He is talking to her father when she steps out of her room to listen to their conversation from a corridor.
There were seven boys and three girls (or maybe 6-4, I forget exactly), and of course, they all cut the scene differently. We watched all their scenes in a row and were surprised at the way the girls had cut it differently from the boys. The women had also focused on what Aishwarya is feeling while the boys focused more on Abhishek and father discussing what is best for her. It was almost like Aishwarya’s character had a point of view only in the scenes that the girls had cut! The difference was so apparent, all of us were a bit shocked to see it.
How much do you see women on screen? By ‘see’ I mean do you really see them as people? It’s like when we get into an auto we don’t see the auto driver. Only sometimes you end up having a conversation with one of them; you ask them about themselves, they ask you about you, then you see that person that, “Oh, he has this life.” I feel this is what happens to women in films as well. You are like some flowerpot – there for all the important events, you might be the person they are fighting over; but who are you as a person, what do you feel, what do you think when you see these people when you see these men discussing you? I want to know that.
Female characters interest me obviously; they are like my projection on the screen. I would always like to know what she is saying or thinking… Maybe if a guy edited these films, they would have been different. Especially the women characters…
Female characters interest me obviously; they are like my projection on the screen. I would always like to know what she is saying or thinking. And it has so happened that I have very rarely done films where the female characters are really just in the background, where they are flowerpots. Maybe if a guy edited these films, they would have been different. Especially the women characters would have been different, like Shruti in Band Baaja Baaraat or Krishna in Ishqiya or Vidya in Kahaani and say even Neelu in Titli.
The female gaze in editing is more relevant to films in which the gender divide is not so obvious than say a film like Titli. For example, Kahaani, for me, was about this woman’s loneliness who can’t find her missing husband. What does she feel in this strange city when she is pregnant? It must be so hard for her. That was the emotion I totally saw the film with. In Band Baaja Baaraat, I felt I was Shruti; I want to know what she is thinking, what her point of view in this situation is. Whether it is cleaning the road, or fighting with the caterer, whatever it is, I want to know what she feels and I feel that made it more interesting. The script was more favoured towards Bittu, but Maneesh (Sharma, the director) shot it in a way that he gave a lot of credit to Shruti; Anushka also performed in such a way that it was hard to ignore. She was so good as Shruti and I just pushed it one step, wherever I could. There is a scene where she cries; she tries to go and talk to him about what happened between them and he says, “Arre yeh toh kand ho gaya”. She feels really bad that he’s calling what happened between them a ‘kaand’, and she breaks down, and the way she breaks down you just don’t want to cut, you really feel for her.
(As told to Sankhayan Ghosh)