‘O Womaniya!’ is a report on women in film, a collaboration between Film Companion and Ormax Media. It has looked at 129 films across 35 languages over 2019, and 2020. Though the inequality between men and women in the film industry is no secret, the report reveals just how stark the distinction is.
Film Companion editor Anupama Chopra sat with actresses Taapsee Pannu and Samantha Akkineni, director Anjali Menon, Director of Indian Original Films, Netflix, Srishti Behl Arya, and cinematographer Keiko Nakahara to discuss the findings of the report, their experience being a woman on set, and what the road ahead looks like.
According to the report, in movie trailers 81% of speaking parts are male. It’s the first piece of information on a film to go out— the default narrative is thus that the story is about a man, setting the expectations.
Perhaps this is because the films themselves are male narratives. The report used the Bechdel Test, where there is at least one scene in the film in which two named female characters are having a conversation that’s not about a man/ men. Only 59% of the film passed this (which Taapsee Pannu and Anjali Menon thought was higher than they expected). Films that didn’t pass this test include: Bharat, Housefull 4, Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior, Uri: The Surgical Strike, Bala, Article 15, Ludo, Ala Vaikunta Puramulo, Bigil, Soorarai Pottru, Jersey, Darbar.
However, Taapsee Pannu also notes her positive experience when she did Pink. “I was fairly new in the industry and I was shocked to see the trailer because it had as much of me as Mr.Bachchan, which I totally didn’t imagine. That day I was introduced to a different side to representation of women on-screen.”
Srishti Behl Arya, Director of India Original films, Netflix notes how the “democratization of content” on streaming will definitely help rethink the narrative, given how well a film like Axone, and all women cast, mostly from the North-East, did for their platform. The report also affirms this, noting that the OTT ecosystem has better representation, averaging 13% of HODs being women, vis-à-vis 6% for theatrical films.