“We need the energies of both men and women to change the narrative of women,” said the firebrand Shaili Chopra, Founder of SheThePeople.TV, at the Women Writers’ Fest Hyderabad kick-starting the discussions on gender roles in the digital age, women and education, women authors etc. Power packed well-known authors take centre stage in the day-long festival which features new ground in content, style, and storytelling. The focus was on female creativity and artistic achievements while discovering some of the best contemporary women authors across in India.

Panel discussions were led by illustrious names from the creative fraternity. Moderator Pinky Reddy, the national President of FICCI Ladies Organisation, started the conversation by saying, “I love Hyderabad as it has so much talent to offer to everyone.” This discussion particularly centred on women from the creative world in the city of Hyderabad.

Women of Hyderabad take centre stage

Talking about the rich culture the city represents, Elahe Hiptoola, a lawyer by education and currently an entrepreneur, went on to say that the people in the city are the most happiest and claimed how generous they are when it comes to hospitality. She said that the city knows only one language, which is love. “Hyderabad is the most inclusive city ever,” Elahe expressed, to which Pinky Reddy added, “Indeed it’s the most warmest city in the country. This city is the most happiest place that invites everybody, no matter which part of the country you are from, with open arms.”

“If you are big hearted, if you speak humanity, then you are a Hyderabadi. You are inclusive,” Elahe Hiptoola said who is the founder of ‘Elahe’, the first fashion store in Hyderabad, and co-founder of ‘Lamakaan’, an inclusive cultural space.

Talking about bringing in change to the city as youngsters, Lakshmi Manchu, an actor in Telugu film industry, said, “We are still learning nuances of new areas, infrastructures, schools etc here in the city. We are building the city now each day at a time.” Beside acting, Lakshmi dons the hats of producer, and is known for her work in Telugu cinema and American television. Pinky Reddy further added, “I am now representing Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in New Delhi. Young girls who are much new to the city, you are experiencing a vast grown place now. Let’s move forward with new movements, cultural mix and the same old traditional values.” Reddy has mastered leadership skills early in her life, and she is also the first woman from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh to become the national president of FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO).

“The women of Hyderabad. I can term us as calm and composed,” Elahe explained. “I am born in Chennai but after my father moved to the city I experienced a different kind of environment here. I feel it’s a very young city which is still growing. I have seen it grow and transformed into this amazing part of India. The city people and young crowd make it more fun and enjoyable,” Lakshmi, who holds a bachelor’s degree in Theatre from Oklahoma City University, expressed.

READ:Why Do We Need A Women Writers Festival?

Looking for conviction

“Giving example from my personal life I should tell you how I started out as an actor. Traditionally, a woman from an actor’s family cannot be an actress. If my mother was an actress then it’s okay for me to pursue the career.  It kind of sounds like a girl shouldn’t smoke because it reflects bad character,” she added.

“Do men have no character or do women have no lungs?” Lakshmi asked while talking about how cultural boundaries dictate women in the society.

Talking further about early childhood and lesser-known secrets, she said, “Very early in life I was trying to figure out my destination. Perks of being veteran actor Mohan Babu’s daughter are that I have privileges but I did not want to bank on the fame. I was a shy kid. I did not want to embarrass my father also. I chose the best school in America. I took computer science like a very good girl. Because that’s what good girls do, right? I failed terribly. One day while attending a theatrical play I asked myself one question: Do I want to be famous or do I want to be an actor? It was an immediate choice. Actor it is! I worked on the language, my accent. During this period, I worked with Oscar award winning actors and writers. So to conclude, I feel when you put your heart and soul into something the virtual walls that are created by you and the society will surely go down as your dream is bigger than anything. Your conviction is what matters to the real world,” she claimed.

“The strong men in my family said I am ‘Adishakti’ but I told them I am parashakti that means all of shakti, power,” Lakshmi said.

“Having lived in America and coming back to Hyderabad, a no internet zone back then, I struggled a lot. It took some time but I was adamant to prove myself. I call myself Parashakti. The greater power. That’s how I operate,” – Lakshmi Manchu

Read More Stories By Ria Das

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