With Priyanka, Anushka, Deepika turning producers, women may finally get wider representation in Bollywood
Actress Swara Bhaskar just announced that she’s turning producer, joining the likes of Anushka Sharma, Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone. Though Sonam Kapoor Ahuja doesn't have her own production house, she and sister Rhea have been the driving forces behind their father's banner. In a statement, Swara emphasised the need to support good scripts and filmmakers that have fresh and powerful stories who don’t otherwise get a platform.
What’s interesting about all these female actors turning producers isn’t the move itself; it’s more the timing of the move and the reasons. It’s not new for female actors to launch production houses. Over the last decade, we’ve seen Preity Zinta, Lara Dutta and Ameesha Patel venture into production as well. While Lara’s Chalo Dilli was fairly well received and did average business, Preity’s Ishkq in Paris sank without a trace and Ameesha’s Desi Magic has been in the works for the past four years. One thing has been common to all these films—they were all attempts at re-launching downward spiralling careers.
That’s clearly not the case with the new bunch of production houses started by actresses at the top of their game. When Priyanka Chopra founded Purple Pebble Pictures in 2015, the vision was very clear—to promote new talent and provide a platform for hard-hitting regional cinema. “A good story. A well-written script. New talent” – are the necessary ingredients laid out on their website. In three years, the banner has so far had seven releases under their belt, in Marathi, Punjabi, Assamese, Nepali and Bhojpuri. Ventilator, their first Marathi film, swept three National Awards in 2016, while their last film Pahuna from Sikkim has travelled across the festival circuit winning the jury’s choice award for best film at Toronto. Priyanka’s just announced that she’s developing a film with legendary Hollywood director, Barry Levinson, on the life of spiritual leader and Osho disciple Ma Anand Sheela.
Anushka’s foray into production with her banner, Clean Slate films has been a little different, with the actress featuring in all three of their releases till date. The approach, in this case, has been to pick up stories that aren’t considered commercial, and give them a mainstream platform by lending her star power. NH10, the first of these films explores a dark story about honour killing, and went on to become a sleeper hit in 2015. Her subsequent productions, Phillauri and Pari have both done average business, but more importantly tell ‘new’ stories, the kinds she wants to tell.
Actresses, today, are either looking to tell the kind of stories they want to, or to have complete control over the process. Swara’s maiden film under her new banner, Kahaaniwaaley, is a biopic based on the true story of a woman who pretended to be a man and married at least two women. Deepika’s maiden production venture will be directed by Meghna Gulzar and tells the story of an acid attack survivor. While some of these stories might aim to be more inclusive, it’s pretty darn guaranteed that there will be a change in how women are depicted in all these films.
There’s also the fact that these are strong women with the means and wherewithal to step into what was hitherto known as a man’s world. Their having complete control over the process will subtly bring about changes in the power dynamics of the industry. Priyanka Chopra is the only producer in this country who has officially announced pay-parity in her organisation. Last year, when she announced a new set of benefits, including a crèche and flexi-hours for working mothers, she gave us a glimpse of what the future could be in an industry that’s otherwise known for it’s insensitivity to women.
Updated Date: Feb 10, 2019 10:02:36 IST
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