Women directors struggle in Bollywood

'Peepli Live' has female director

MUMBAI -- Bollywood may have changed the way it makes its films but there's still no changing industry stereotypes about women filmmakers.

Women directors in the Mumbai film industry are still few and far between, with only a select group able to break the glass ceiling in what is still a male-dominated industry.

"It is always difficult to make your first film, but even more so as a woman, because you are worried whether any one will take you seriously here," said Rajshree Ojha, whose film "Aisha" released this month.

Ojha said it took her six years to convince producers about her script, an adaptation of Jane Austen's classic "Emma" set in 21st-century Delhi.

Bollywood is known for being patriarchal -- heroes get paid more, most films have a male protagonist, are produced and directed by men and are targeted at male audiences.

To make matters worse, there's a perception that women directors only make films on social issues.

With only a handful of women directors in the industry, "even if a few of them make movies on social subjects it becomes a stereotype," director Tanuja Chandra told a magazine recently.

Chandra, who directed films like "Sangharsh" and "Dushman," is among the select few who have made inroads in Bollywood, a list that includes Farah Khan, Zoya Akhtar and now Anusha Rizvi, director of "Peepli Live," starring Aamir Khan.

"Making a film in Bollywood is also about handling stars, their tantrums, dealing with a lot of day-to-day problems, and you need to be very brash sometimes," said trade analyst Vajir Singh.

Filmmaker Alankrita Shrivastava remembers her first days on film sets as trainee, when the only women around would be make-up artists.

"I would work so hard then, just to prove that I could do it as a woman," said Shrivastava, whose debut film "Turning 30" is due for release some time this year.

"Now in retrospect, I feel it was stupid of me to do that, but then you feel that you have to work twice as hard to show that you are capable."

Things don't get simpler even the second time around. Despite the release of "Aisha," Ojha said it would still be tough to get funds for her next film.

"If I was a man, I myself would have done things differently, perhaps gone out there and sold myself better but as a woman, there is always someone telling you can't do something, even if you think you can," said Ojha.
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