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Bollywood’s female directors

Till a few decades ago, films being made by women filmmakers could either be slotted as women-centric issue-based ones or leaning towards the parallel track of arthouse cinema. Today however, films being helmed by women are no longer synonymous with being arty or female-oriented. A new breed of women filmmakers is at work and they are not just churning out commercial mainstream fare, they are also exploring bolder topics of sex, sensuality and masala. Bollywood’s recent erotic thriller Jism 2 has been helmed by Pooja Bhatt while The Dirty Picture was produced by Ekta Kapoor. After the rather bold outing, Ekta then made the sex comedy Kyaa Super Kool Hain Hum.

These are only a few of the rising brigade of women directors in the industry who’ve steered clear from stereotypical fare. One of last year’s biggest hits Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara was helmed by Zoya Akhtar. London, Paris New York was directed by Anu Menon, and much before that, Dhobhi Ghat was by Kiran Rao. Among the ones coming up, Reema Kagti’s exploring murder mystery with Talaash, first timer Bela Sehgal’s presenting a light-hearted romance in her Shirin Farhad Ki Love Story, debutant director Gauri Shinde is opting for a slice-of-life story in English Vinglish, while another debutant Divya Khosla Kumar’s film Class of 2013 is a romcom.

Trade observers agree that while senior filmmakers Mira Nair, Sai Paranjpye, Kalpana Lajmi, Deepa Mehta, Aparna Sen, Revathy… all came to be known for a certain kind of cinema, directors like Tanuja Chandra, Gurinder Chaddha did try to break away from the mould. “But though commercial in approach, they both hardly deviated from women-centric fare. It was Farah Khan, who completely went out all masala with Om Shanti Om,” they say. “Let’s not forget films like Fire and Kamasutra were helmed by women, but yes they did not get the mainstream acceptance that the filmmakers today are enjoying,” they add.

Trade analyst Taran Adarsh points out that it’s an interesting phase for women filmmakers. “Gone are the days when they would make only certain type of cinema. Not only has there been a marked increase in the number of women filmmakers recently, but even the topics that they are exploring are considerably different from what their seniors would lean towards. They are unapologetic in their approach to sex,” says Taran. Farah says, “I don’t know about others, but I have only looked at films as entertainers or non-entertainers, so as a filmmaker, that’s also what I have in mind,” says Farah. As for being directed by a female director, adult star Sunny Leone says that it’s a misconception that women can’t try bolder topics. The fact is they are just as capable as any of their male counterparts. “They add a sensitive touch to any topic they take,” adds Leone.

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