Cinema is not divorced from the society we live, so when we say let’s change the narrative, we can’t do that without the society actually changing. This was a major conversation during a panel dedicated to film and feminism at the SheThePeople.Tv’s Feminist Conference.

Since ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha‘, many producers have praised Alankrita Shrivastava and want to do deals and tie ups, but they want her to tweak her idea to make it, …more sati-savitri? They are appreciative of her bold work, but think of their box office? In this conversation at #FeministConference journalist Priyanka Sinha Jha nails the issue of why films and feminism have an awkward relationship. Where actor Shruti Seth Aslam insists men need to rise up and support women in the industry and writer Juhi Chaturvedi asks why women shouldn’t be writing more stories and sharing perspectives of half the population in their own way.

“Let’s not wait for men to tell our stories, we can tell them better.”

“Women have been missing from popular culture. Who will tell their story?,” asked Alankrita Srivastava the director of Lipstick Under My Burkha. “I think popular culture will change dramatically when we get to a gender equal world. When every Friday half the films that come out are about women or made by women, things will be very different. Just like Hollywood has started this conversation, we need it here too. Let’s not wait for men to tell our stories, we can tell them better.”

The uneasy relationship between comedy, screen and women

Why is there an uneasy relationship between comedy, screen and women? The question was posted to Shruti Seth, who said, “I have had to face discrimination across the spectrum of my roles, from being an actor and even an emcee. I have had to normalise it. It is so hardwired that you are the female anchor which means you are there as the pretty face. And the main conversation will be handled by the male anchors. But these people are shameless.”

On need to start and stir conversations

Shruti also added that feminist conferences were needed to start and stir conversations. “These conversations open our minds and reduces prejudice. Boys have a bro code, women need to start building on that.”

“We never bother clubbing films as male oriented. Why do we do that for women?” -Alankrita Srivastava

Female narrative

Is the female narrative making business sense? The question was addressed by the panel. Should that question at all exist? “We never bother clubbing films as male oriented. Why do we do that for women?” asks Alankrita. “We still have a problem with the idea of purity. Certain narratives are most palatable. When I meet people who want to do deals with me, they keep telling me Lipstick was great but can you do something more pure and sati savitri?”

Films in India are one of the biggest source of conversation, learning, entertainment and more. If our films in both obvious and subtle ways eliminated slapstick humour that thrives on belittling marriages and women and discuss how they dress, look, are thin or fat – we may move leaps ahead in our perception and behaviour. Unfortunately not only is the film industry living off stereotypes, they don’t even learn from those who are breaking the narrative and emerging new ideas.

Follow all the conversation on Twitter on the #FeministConference here

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