The female filmmakers and actresses opened up about their experiences and thoughts on their big day.
Netflix brings women artistes together on International Women’s Day
Mumbai - 08 Mar 2021 23:58 IST
Updated : 12 Mar 2021 12:42 IST
On the occasion of Women’s Day, Netflix brought together women filmmakers, actors, creators and producers, with whom it has collaborated, and gave them a platform to speak about their experiences and thoughts on their big day. The filmmakers and artistes opened up on how streaming services such as Netflix have helped tell and disseminate various kinds of stories to the world.
The over-the-top content platform and production company is partnering with the National Film Development Corporation to support a screenwriting course for 100 women in India as part of the company’s $5 million global fund towards programmes that help identify, train up-and-coming women talent around the world.
I keep sharing my wishes with the universe. When I was younger I used to think “when I pass a certain age l want meaningful characters”. At that time I didn’t know Netflix would happen to India. So grateful to the universe that it did.
Services like Netflix are changing the way we look at women’s stories. It is vital that women get powerful roles, being celebrated as prominent characters. There was a time when after a certain age, women were stereotyped but today you even have the transformation of a male character in a book to a female character in the series. We must celebrate this.
Earlier, actresses would get a role where they needed to dance only when they were very young right? Me getting to dance in Bombay Begums as Lily right now is so amazing! I think this is the best time for actresses who yearn for meaningful work.
Streaming services are very democratic. People can watch a small film, a big film or a series regardless of who is in it or who it is made by. What draws people in is the credibility and authenticity of the storytelling. That sort of reach is amazing and we can’t underestimate the power to reach every home.
Women don’t compete. We fix each other’s crowns. And when we come together to tell our stories, we evolve the representation of women on screen. More women in the workforce mean perspectives will change and changed perspectives impact society. As a producer, this is my responsibility.
I’ve always believed in sisterhood, the idea of sharing women’s stories, stories that challenge ideas of faith, caste, ethnicity, gender. Understanding other women and knowing you are not alone is very empowering. Series offer a bigger character graph, the chance to really get into a character even if you’re not the lead. And the advantage is that the world is your audience.
For decades, in the Indian film industry, women have been stereotyped into one-dimensional caricatures on screen. Reality begs to differ. And streaming services with their archives of regional shows, films, docu-series etc have proved that digital audiences are happy to trade commercial entertainment for quality content. But even better, while we present bold, strong, independent women and their stories, told well — we’re holding a mirror up to society and proving that there’s a fantastic world beyond the blockbuster formula.
I got stereotyped at one point and thought I’d never escape but films like Tribhanga helped break the tag. As filmmakers and artists, we have the privilege to tell stories that are diverse and powerful and I am excited about what the future will bring.
I appeal to all children to encourage their mothers to work! Surrounded by women – director Sonam Nair and writers Punya Arora, Nandini Gupta and Anupama Ramachandran, I don’t think we had to turn around and explain to a male producer that this ‘actually happens in our lives’. The sensitivity with which women tell women’s stories is indispensable.
I feel that the more creators we have and the newer topics we tap into, the more we are providing viewers with a larger variety of stories to watch. This is important as it’s a way to build our presence on the service, and do justice to the wide range of opportunities that social media offers.
All of us, men and women, are accountable for how women are treated in society and how women are portrayed on screen. Patriarchy isn't gendered. And as women living in this system, we might have internalized it. Hence we constantly need to check ourselves on our prejudices.
Streaming platforms, over the last few years, have made content that has pushed the boundaries and moved away from formula. I am so encouraged by this kind of storytelling and grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it.
I am my mother’s daughter. She introduced me to the arts, gave me a sense of gender justice, she is an ally, my best friend, my greatest privilege. I use my voice to draw attention to the tenets of equality across gender, caste and class. And we need platforms that work as allies too.
The doors to streaming services are open for all creative folk — writers, actors, directors, everyone. And so many women storytellers are coming to the fore alongside women directors, cinematographers, technicians and others. What a huge difference the female gaze makes. Yes, we have a long way to go but we’re moving in the right direction. And, it’s a change that can evolve how we bring up our children and change society too.
In her 40s a woman is in her prime. But it’s taken some time for the entertainment industry to wake up to it. Finally, we have directors, filmmakers, storytellers who are ready to take risks, to move away from the expected and comfortable and truly weave content-driven stories and characters. Netflix and other streaming services have a huge hand in not only encouraging such storytelling and characters but consciously making a choice of celebrating a woman no matter what her age. Lines between the actor and character are merging. Now no longer does a woman have the shelf life of cake and yet she is decadent. Finally, the entertainment world is revelling in her mystique.
Shweta Basu Prasad:
Streaming services greenlight projects that respect writers who then create characters who shine. Content becomes king and queen for actors like me, it means a wealth of substantial roles. I’ve really enjoyed playing a woman in a man’s world, shaking things up. And I’ve never been this busy in my life!
Traditionally women, especially older ones, unconventional ones, were relegated to the sidelines. Now, roles across the board — older, younger, men, women — have become more interesting. There’s an evolutionary growth taking place in cinema and you can see it best in the stories being told on services like Netflix.
Brave, corrupt, submissive, unapologetic, ambitious, women of different sexual orientations, from all walks of life, at any age or stage in their lives — people are telling their stories with more gumption and Netflix is bringing them to the forefront and without the clichéd ‘woman-oriented’ marketing tag. Women have been stereotyped as perfect so it’s a delight to see narratives featuring flawed women. And the reason these characters are taking centre-stage is because there are a lot of women backstage. There’s a camaraderie that comes from deep human understanding, supreme talent and true support. The empathy, knowledge sharing and encouragement, it’s exhilarating on and of the set. Things are looking great ahead.
The disability of my character in Mukkabaaz is a reflection of the lack of expression most women have in our society. Today, it’s streaming services like Netflix that champion bolder, diverse stories and ideas. It's because of this that there is more space to voice newer ideas and take creative leaps — as an artist and as a woman.