‘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.
Samantha notes the disproportionate pay being more staggering than we thought, “Even if you’re amongst the top 3 actresses working with an actor who is not even in the top 20, he is still getting paid way more than you are. I don’t know how you arrive at that math. It’s very cool when a hero hikes his remuneration, as a sign that he is getting more successful. When a woman hikes her remuneration, she becomes problematic, demanding, and too ambitious.”
Taapsee Pannu notes one aspect of this disproportionate pay is also the disproportionate budget allocation. “A female-centric film’s entire budget is equivalent to that of a male actor’s salary. It’s still there. If there’s an A-list actress, there won’t be an A-list actor willing to do a smaller part. Where we have countless examples of the other way round.”
This attitude leaks to on-set behaviour as well when Anjali Menon, when asking for a specific frame, was told by a man “Who do you think you are? Anwar Rasheed?”
Pannu, who began her career as an actor working on films in the South, spoke of how an actor wanted to change her introduction scene because he felt she was overpowering him. She was also made to re-dub one of her own lines because of an actor’s insecurity, “There was a scene where I just blast the hero in front of his face and walk off. In the dubbing I was told to change my dialogues because the “hero-sir” wanted the dialogues changed. I was like “But the hero-sir was there on set when I was saying these dialogues. Why would he tell me he wants a different line at that time?” I said I will not dub something else. It is my close-up, I will look stupid if I dub something else. He said fine we’ll keep it mute. I said okay. The next thing I know, after the release of the film, they had gotten some other dubbing artist for that particular shot and made her dub whatever the “hero-sir” wanted.”