‘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, 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, when you look at 5 key departments in film — direction, writing, editing, cinematography, and production design — 92% of their Heads of Departments are men. Only 6% of the 129 films were directed by women.
Anjali Menon notes that this might have something to do with the market expectation vis-a-vis gender: “Main thing is investor confidence. The way the market works is based on precedence — where you have good examples of success. People prefer to invest in a proven example. Directors who are of genders other than male are not easy to find because of the cultural setup. Because they haven’t been common, people find it more difficult to find that kind of confidence. That reason is not good enough, frankly. Mainstream filmmaking has a certain set pattern which is unwilling to break; they like to sit within their comfort zone. With more women coming up in every department, that is bound to change. It’s not just the producers though. There are also stars involved.”
There is also a North-South difference, where in Hindi movies the HODs are at 16%, in the South it is at 1%. However, Anjali Menon cautions us to think of it as a Mainstream-Regional difference and not a North-South difference since regional languages are more conservative. It is about the cosmopolitan nature of where the films are being made.
Based on the report, cinematography is the field where women are most shut out; only 2% of the 129 films were shot by women, and all of them were by Keiko Nakahara. (Tanhaji, Total Dhamaal, Shakuntala Devi)
Nakahara notes that being a cinematographer is “more physical, more tiring” which is why most people consider it the male bastion. Taapsee Pannu noted how the cinematographer of her upcoming outdoor sports film Rashmi Rocket, Neha Parti, is not only a woman, but was also pregnant during the shoot, and pulled it off without batting an eyelid.