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Need to stop stereotyping not just women, but also men: Shonali Bose at Oxfam ‘Women In Film’ brunch

The filmmaker had been a jury member at the inaugural edition of the award in 2016 along with actor-director Rahul Bose, and actor Kunal Kapoor.

Photo: Shutterbugs

Sonal Pandya

The Oxfam ‘Women In Film’ brunch was held in association with the Mumbai Film Festival at the JW Marriott hotel on 28 October 2018. One of the attendees at the event honouring the eight nominated filmmakers was director Shonali Bose.  

In 2016, she along with actor-director Rahul Bose and actor Kunal Kapoor, had been part of a jury that awarded Alankrita Shrivastava’s Lipstick Under My Burkha (2017) at the first edition of Oxfam Best Film on Gender Equality award.

We spoke with Bose about how she felt the award had come forward since then. “Right now it’s huge because it’s an unprecedented #MeToo movement happening, so in that context, every forum and situation that shines the light on women is important. I feel this section of the film festival has really risen this year,” she replied.

Bose, who is currently working on her next film, The Sky Is Pink (2019), flew in especially for the festival and hadn’t had the chance to view any of the films nominated for this year’s Best Film on Gender Equality Award.

“But I think that without even seeing anything, just to put forward that message of cinema beyond stereotypes is what’s the most important thing today. We need to just say that we need to stop stereotyping not just women, but men. How is masculinity portrayed in Indian cinema?” she asked.

Earlier at a conversation held on Friday (26 October) about the #MeToo movement and the culture, content and conduct associated with it, the filmmaker had further elaborated on that point.

“Your choice as a filmmaker, when you want to push boundaries is what are you going to portray. Are you going to choose the typical stalking, chest-beating male character or are you going to make somebody who knows how to treat women and speak with them? Because you’re influencing massive minds with your portrayal of men,” she had stated.

She gave an example of a character from her own film Margarita With A Straw (2015) - Baljit (played by Kuljeet Singh) - who was criticised for atypical male behaviour.

“In giving space to his wife, that doesn’t mean he’s dominated. Because he cries? And my male characters howl, in his disabled bisexual daughter’s arms, he broke down and I feel that’s important. That is male courage. Even in The Sky Is Pink, Farhan’s character has to do that and I think that is so important to sensitize your audiences how you’re portraying how men should be. This is a society of men and women. This movement should at no point become an anti-male bashing movement. Because what it is, is ideology, which we have to fight and we will not be able to fight it if we don’t it as people together in society fighting that.”

At the conversation, Bose had also cautioned the audience to be responsible in the manner the #MeToo movement was being used. “But at the same time, when this whole naming and shaming is going on and people’s lives and careers are getting hugely affected overnight, a responsibility has to come from within, through every feminist in this industry, in this society and in this country, that it’s not just a matter of being vengeful. The repercussions is not that you won’t get work or he won’t get work. The repercussions is that there’s this movement, which is fantastic, will die,” she advised.

At Sunday’s brunch event, the filmmaker also hoped for a future in which there didn’t have to be separate award for gender sensitivity.

“You empower women and men directors to make women-centric films that you don’t need to have a separate section and our mainstream is flooded with that. That’s where you need to reach,” Bose said.

Related topics

MAMI Oxfam Gender Equality Award