While many of us may know the names of female directors in Bollywood who are breaking barriers in this largely male-dominated space, most of us are unaware when it comes to their counterparts in the regional film industries. These badass female directors are breaking all glass ceilings, and daring to tell untold stories from the female gaze. Here’s a list of eight such women who, amongst many others, have successfully made their mark in their respective film industries.
Anjali Menon works as a director in the Malayalam film industry. She made her directorial debut with the film Manjadikuru. Since then, she has won numerous regional and national awards for her work. Menon has never lost a chance to call out the under-representation of women in the Malayalam film industry. She is also one of the founding members of the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC), an organization that focuses on gender equality in the Malayalam film industry.
While we all may have heard of the actor Dhanush, who has now made his mark in Bollywood as well, the person whom people usually don’t know about is his equally successful wife, the Kollywood director Aishwarya Dhanush. The eldest daughter of superstar Rajinikanth, her directorial debut film 3 became the romantic film of the year in 2012. After all, who can forget the viral song ‘Why This Kolaveri Di’ from the film, which became an overnight internet sensation. Aishwarya then went on to direct another romantic-comedy, Vai Raja Vai in 2015, and made her first documentary Cinema Veeran in 2017.
Rima Das works in the Assamese film industry. She is best known for her 2017 film Village Rockstars, which won several national and international awards. The film also became the first Assamese film to be submitted for Oscar consideration. Another one of her films, Bulbul Can Sing, also garnered international acclaim. A feminist who believes in highlighting gender disparity through her films, Rima Das was named as one of the 50 Most Influential Young Indians of 2018 in the GQ India edition from the same year.
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Bengali film director Satarupa Sanyal is well known for the feminist social stances that reside in her films. She made her first film Anu in 1998. It remains a path-breaking film because of its nuanced portrayal of a progressive, leftist, and humanist approach towards feminism. After Anu, she made another film Atatayee which captured the political scenario of the 1970s. Sanyal served as a member of the Central Board of Film Certification for four years. Often considered a multi-talented personality, she is also a well-regarded producer, poet, lyricist, and social-activist in Bengal.
An advocate-turned-director, Samruddhi Porey is recognised, revered and respected across the Marathi Film Industry, as a fil maker with a cause. She uses her films to portray various social issues prevalent in society. Not having found any takers for her film-making-skills during her early days in the career, she started her own company – Samruoddhi Cine World. She won national awards for her film Mala Aai Vhaychay! which is based on surrogacy. Her upcoming film is a biopic based on the life of the social worker Prakash Amte and his wife Mandakini.
An entrepreneur-turned-actress and director, Lakshmy Ramakrishnan’s debut film Aarohanam received many critical reviews and a Special Jury award at the Vijay Awards. The film revolved around a missing mother, who suffers from bipolar disorder. As an ardent enthusiast of movies that promote social causes, her second directorial venture, Nerungi Vaa Muthamidathe is a story that sheds light on the petrol crisis. Her recent film House Owner dealt with the 2015 Chennai Flood.
Suman Kittur is a renowned director in Kannada film industry. Starting off as a journalist, she later turned to filmmaking, marking her debut with Slum Bala in 2008. Since, then, her subsequent films have earned critical acclaim, awards and commercial success. Suman Kittur is known best for presenting the anti-social elements of the society in her films. She also made movies on the underworld, which increased her presence in the industry. Her recent film Kiragoorina Gayyaligalu was an adaptation from a famous short story by Poornachandra Tejaswi.
Sumitra Bhave is a well-known feminist researcher and social worker-turned-director. In 1985, while working as the Director of Research Project for Stree Vani, Bhave made a debut short film Bai about a woman from the slums to display her strength to survive adversities. There was no looking back from there. Usually partnering with her husband Sunil Sudhakar, the duo has won awards for over several decades for their works on social issues and feminism. Her two last films Astu- So Be It and Kasaav dealt with Alzheimer’s disease and psychological disorders simultaneously.
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These women have gained acclaim for their works from all over the world. The stories they are telling are both unique and path-breaking. And as we celebrate women directors from Bollywood and other international film industries, we should not forget the contributions made by these regional female directors who have carved their own space in the world of cinema from scratch.
Dyuti Gupta is an intern with SheThePeople.TV.