Rangita Pritish Nandy On Feminism And Popular Entertainment
Rangita Pritish Nandy is one of the most influential movers and shakers in the Indian film industry. As the Executive Director and Creative Director of Pritish Nandy Communications Ltd, which has given us movies like Chameli, Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, Shabd, Kaante, Jhankar Beats, Pyaar Ke Side Effects, Shaadi Ke Side Effects, Mastizaade, and of course, most recently, the OTT series Four More Shots, Please! Rangita is one of those in a position of influence to shape the narratives we see in our popular entertainment.
In the first of a series of interviews with women who drive our entertainment, SheThePeople.TV Ideas Editor, Kiran Manral, speaks with Rangita Pritish Nandy of PNC Entertainment about the feminism, or the lack of it, in our popular entertainment.
What makes a movie truly feminist according to you?
When it has strong, liberated, unashamed, yet imperfect women as part of its principal characters sharing equal ground with the male characters of the piece on screen. And off-screen, as part of its making. When the female voice within and behind the show is clear and loud. And when these women are viewed on screen through a clear female gaze that does not solely objectify them but equally represents them. Basically a movie that celebrates women.
Sweden recently announced that they would rate movies for feminist content through a rating system derived from the Bechdel test. Do you think this is essential for entertainment?
Perhaps not for entertainment per se but more so that film-makers, content creators and platforms are mindful of the Bechdel and realize that there is a real need today to bring more stories that celebrate women and that are about women to the forefront.
What percentage of our popular entertainment do you think passes the Bechdel test, and how can we up the percentage?
That percentage is a joke so let’s not go there. But times are slowly changing and people are warming up to stories about women. Interesting and atypical female lead characters are being created and the box office as well as this new wave of OTT platforms is welcoming the turn. So that’s a start and hopefully somewhere in the near future, that percentage will increase.
Times are slowly changing and people are warming up to stories about women.
Do you think we could apply the Maka Mori and the Furiosa tests of feminist content to our Indian films/online series/TV series and which ones do you think would pass the test?
As creators, we must realize the impact that content created by us has on the population that views it. We can change popular conversation, we can direct dialogue in directions that can revolutionize the way people observe, think and act, we can actually make people think of things that they were comfortable ignoring. That in itself is a responsibility, especially in the times we live in today. In that regards, whatever the test: Bechdel, Moka Mori, Furiosa—we must use whatever we choose wisely and use it appropriately. Though personally, the Furiosa seems to defeat the purpose a little. The intent, for me, is to be able to bring about change—in conversation, action and environment. To go from a people that ignores its women to one that actually listens and reacts to and with us. A boycott is a full stop, what we need is a hyphen.
We can change popular conversation, we can direct dialogue in directions that can revolutionize the way people observe, think and act, we can actually make people think of things that they were comfortable ignoring.
How can we move the primarily patriarchal gaze that exists in popular cinema today?
By creating content and characters that celebrate the female gaze and making it enjoyable and acceptable to not only women but also men. To be able to do that, the tone of the voice used must be pitch perfect. Preaching is a waste of time, nobody listens. The voice has to be inclusive. There is little point in building a non-inclusive world for women only. Unless the men around us listen to us, watch and understand us and get us, the world around us will remain the patriarchal mess that it is. We must tell our stories to everybody. They must reach everybody. That is how change will take place. In that sense, we have to do one better than The Boys Club.
There is little point in building a non-inclusive world for women only.
From a cinematic tradition that gave us Mother India, we’ve come to the predictable hyper masculine male protagonist as another stock trope that Hindi cinema seems to rely on. Why aren’t we able to move away from this in our commercial cinema?
Because it rings the box office. Cinema is after all a business. And like all businesses it must be profitable.
As a film producer who has produced content that has spanned the gamut from Shaadi Ke Side Effects, Chameli, Four More Shots Please to Mastizaade, how do you think filmmakers can work towards creating female characters that are three dimensional rather than the two dimensional ones in popular cinema?
By meeting them in life. And not conjuring them up from the shallow recesses of their minds. Go out. Meet women. All women. Any woman. Talk, really talk to the women in your life—the women around you. Make an effort. None of us are minutely like the women you see in our popular cinema. Make an effort.
None of us are minutely like the women you see in our popular cinema.
Creating narrative arcs for female protagonists independent of the male protagonist, might not always be possible in commercial, popular cinema, but what must film makers do to ensure that they avoid making them adjuncts to the male characters?
Just treat them respectfully. Don’t stereotype them, don’t make them stand in the corner with a finger to their lips, don’t objectify them. Even within a male narrative, if there is a woman—tell her littlest story with grace.
Why do we need strong heroines in our cinema, especially when young girls are watching these movies?
Because young girls are watching these stories. And because young boys are watching these stories. Because we have such few heroes who are women in our stories. In true life they walk amidst us every day. But somewhere our stories are blind to them.
We have such few heroes who are women in our stories.
And finally, as a strong, feminist yourself, and a woman of influence, how do you in your work try to rework the narrative to create strong feminist characters and stories?
By being conscious of the world around us, the times we live in, the women around me, the stories of love and living around me and a clear need of our times to have women fairly represented across our stories. Women come in so many textures, so many colours, with so many layers that to tell a one or two-dimensional story, for fear of box office failure or non-acceptance, would be unfair. We have to do better. We have to put our efforts, influence and money behind telling these stories and eventually, they will be accepted.