On be­ing “la­dy­oRIented”

As women, as artistes, as free cit­i­zens, let’s own our bod­ies, our writ­ing, our de­sires, and our cin­ema

India Today - - THE LAST NOTE - AlAnkritA ShrivAStAvA Film­maker

Right from the time I was young, I was drawn to sto­ries about women. I was in an all-girls board­ing school and then an all-girls’ col­lege, and I read vo­ra­ciously. Books had started teach­ing me that there is an­other way of see­ing things. And it is books, es­pe­cially writ­ten by and about women, that con­tinue to be my foun­tain and source of in­spi­ra­tion. That per­haps ex­plains my fas­ci­na­tion with the com­plex­ity of fe­male char­ac­ters.

My di­ploma film in col­lege—

My Mother’s Story—was about my mother’s strug­gle with can­cer seen through my eyes; my first short—

Open Doors—fea­tur­ing Tisca Cho­pra was about a day in the life of a woman who is try­ing to deal with an abu­sive mar­riage. My first fea­ture

Turn­ing 30—with Gul Panag was a com­ing of age story about a woman whose life spi­rals out of con­trol as she hits 30. Lip­stick Un­der My

Burkha is the story of four or­di­nary women and their search for free­dom through se­cret acts of re­bel­lion. The bat­tle to get cer­ti­fi­ca­tion for

Lip­stick though made me re­alise that this free­dom to tell the sto­ries I wanted to tell, could not be taken for granted. As a woman, and as a film­maker, my voice is a threat to the pa­tri­ar­chal or­der. And my free­dom thus, not so sacro­sanct.

The ques­tion re­ally is—are we claim­ing agency over our own lives? Or are we just too busy en­abling pa­tri­ar­chal modes of ex­is­tence? I think to “disobey” the rules of pa­tri­archy is per­haps to live in free­dom. I do feel that one of the es­sen­tial ways through which pa­tri­archy sub­ju­gates women is by in­doc­tri­nat­ing the idea that the fe­male body ex­ists only for the pur­pose of ful­fill­ing the needs of men and so­ci­ety. I think a cin­ema that chal­lenges this nar­ra­tive, should be termed “lady ori­ented.” The cen­sor­ship em­bod­ied by the of­fi­cial cen­sors of cul­ture in our coun­try is threat­ened by “lady ori­ented” cin­ema.

My only an­swer to the force of cen­sor­ship is, I will con­tinue to tell sto­ries that speak of women’s in­ner lives and sub­vert the as­sump­tions made by pa­tri­archy.

Let’s not adopt the male gaze un­ques­tion­ingly. Let’s find our own gaze. What­ever that is. But let’s know our eyes. Who is look­ing at the story and how is very crit­i­cal for me. It is not just about mak­ing a film with a fe­male pro­tag­o­nist, but about the eyes that look at her in the frame, and how the au­di­ence is en­cour­aged to look at her.

I think as a woman and as a film­maker, I want to break the myth of the films I should be “al­lowed” to make. I don’t need any­body’s per­mis­sion to ex­press my­self through cin­ema. I don’t need any­body’s sanc­tion to tell my sto­ries. I must strive to gather the re­sources (read fund­ing) and make my films. No one is go­ing to gift me the cin­ema I want to make. I have to claim my free­dom and my right to cre­ate that cin­ema.


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