Filmfare Awards 2019: Meghna Gulzar's Best Director win for Raazi proves tide turning for female filmmakers
In the last decade, three women have won the Filmfare award for Best Director — Zoya Akhtar for Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011), Ashwini Iyer Tiwari for Bareilly Ki Barfi (2017) and Meghna Gulzar for last year’s smash hit Raazi (2018).
In the last decade, three women have won the Filmfare award for Best Director — Zoya Akhtar for Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011), Ashwini Iyer Tiwari for Bareilly Ki Barfi (2017) and Meghna Gulzar for last year’s smash hit Raazi (2018). In fact, in the last two years, women filmmakers have won the Best Director statute back-to-back, which is a milestone in itself. The last time a woman won an award in the same category was also the first such instance when Sai Paranjpye won for Sparsh (1980). This year was the 64th edition of the Filmfare awards and with just four instances of women winning the Best Director award shows the extent of scales being skewed but three wins in the recent past also reveal a change.
The fact that the Hindi film industry is notoriously male-dominated is not fresh news. But the degree of it never ceases to shock. A few years ago when Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director for The Hurt Locker (2008), a leading Mumbai trade analyst, who also moonlights as a film critic, noted how looking at the film you couldn’t make out that it was directed by a woman. The manner in which Bigelow rewrote not just history with her Oscar win but also the style in which visceral action was presented on the screen made The Hurt Locker one of the best films in the genre. Ironically, Meghna Gulzar’s Raazi is the only film that could be labeled ‘women-centric’ in the list of women filmmakers’ Filmfare Best Director victories. Paranjpye’s Sparsh, Akhtar’s Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and Tiwari’s Bareilly Ki Barfi had male-leads as what could be described in terms of the traditional protagonists.
One of the big changes to have taken place within the realm of the popular Hindi film industry is the doing away of defining the so-called ‘women-centric’ film. Thanks to this, films like Mary Kom, Kahaani, Queen, and more recently, Tumhari Sulu and Raazi are no longer viewed as non-profit making ventures. As a result, the number of screens during the release improves and the visibility increases, which in turn has infused a certain kind of freshness in stories. Consequently, the trade is open to similar projects where budgets are comparatively realistic, and the return on investment is much higher. A few years ago, screenwriter Ritesh Shah told me that during a narration, a producer commented that even though he did not understand the subject, he was nonetheless willing to produce because the writer and the director were convinced about it.
This is the kind of attitudinal shift that has resulted in a ‘woman’ director or cameraperson becoming just another crew member. The increase in the number of women directing films and writing has also managed to combine intellectual and philosophical ambition with standard storytelling. Even the same story now gets a newer approach in terms of the narrative and the characters are portrayed with more depth. Moreover, there is a wider range for female characters that have led to actors like Neena Gupta (Badhaai Ho) finally getting roles worth their talent. This is perhaps the reason why the men in Zoya Akhtar’s Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara are as complex as real-life; Ashwini Iyer Tiwari’s films do away with the male gaze; and Meghna Gulzar in Raazi spun the spy thriller, a genre dominated by men, on its head.
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