Bollywood blind to women's issues


MUMBAI -- The number of women filmmakers may have risen over the years but Bollywood is in no danger of being swamped by films on women's issues.

With blockbusters "Main Hoon Naa" and "Om Shanti Om" under her belt, Farah Khan leads a select list of women who wield the directorial baton in India -- a group that includes the likes of Reema Kagti, Tanuja Chandra and Revathy Menon.

While Indian-origin filmmakers Deepa Mehta and Mira Nair do the country proud abroad, celebrities such as Sushmita Sen, Zoya Akhtar and Neelima Azim are set to make their debut as directors in the coming months.

But apart from veterans Kalpani Lajmi and Aparna Sen, rarely have women filmmakers in India used the camera to focus on women's issues.

"They are a confused lot. Every one of them wants to be a feminist and claims to be sensitive, but ultimately makes a shallow multiplex film," Bollywood historian Derek Bose told Reuters.

"The feminine gaze which characterizes women's filmmaking as in Aparna Sen or Kalpana Lajmi is missing in the present crop," he said.

Kagti, director of the romantic comedy "Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd." (2007), admits that sensitive films about women are in short supply.

"Previously, women directors used to make films on women issues and their emotions but now things have changed, less films are being made for sure," said Kagti.

"It's not because making a film on women will not be commercially beneficial but making a film on women is entirely a subjective matter for women directors."

Filmmakers agree the dearth is not because the Indian film industry is yet to accept women as directors.

"There is no bias in the industry, I got equal opportunity as other filmmakers to do my job," said Revathy Menon, director of "Mitr -- My Friend" (2002).

"Our industry is very cooperative and you will not be pushed around just because you are a woman," said Kagti.