“Basic philosophy for women-centric cinema is showing the truth to the audience”: an interview of Arunaraje Patil
Manipal: Arunaraje Patil is a writer, editor, director and filmmaker. The first woman technician to have graduated from Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) forty-nine years ago, she recently published her autobiography, Freedom: My Story. Her movie ‘Rihaee’ was screened during Manipal International Literary and Arts Platform (MILAP). The Manipal Journal caught up with Patil post her talk on ‘Freedom and Women Crafting Movies’.
Following are the excerpts from the conversation:
What’s the difference between women-centric movies made during your time and those made now? In your days directors like Shyam Benegal and Girish Karnad were the one who exemplified the role of women on 70mm. Your take on that?
It’s the same difference, then and now. Girls have evolved now. During those days women were suppressed, it’s still prevalent but now it has reduced to a few pockets. Education played a major role in the development of women. It helped them to raise their voice and share their opinions. Today, girls are speaking vehemently about issues concerning them and that’s the major difference. The response that the movie ‘Queen’ garnered was an outcome of a society where a girl is free to do whatever she wants irrespective of the man in her life and that’s only possible in the 21st century.
There are a few movies that pretend to be women-centric when they are actually not. They don’t really make any real difference. For me films like ‘Pink’ are quite pretentious. ‘No means No’ could be said in a better way, the girls were sidelined and more importance was given to Amitabh Bachchan’s character in the movie; something I certainly can’t buy.
Does a women-centric movie mean glorifying the female character or showing women in a good light and not highlighting their flaws?
No, the basic philosophy for women-centric cinema is showing the truth to the audience; whatever is real would be showcased via the reel. The recently released movie ‘Lipstick under My Burkha’ was a good attempt by the director, though I didn’t like the ending where the character of Ratna Pathak Shah is smoking with other women. Freedom doesn’t mean to have cigarettes, it’s all about standing firmly for what you believe. In the scene prior to that she is being bullied and then she’s suddenly enjoying cigarettes. That’s not freedom, that’s simply trying to adopt a metaphor of freedom. For me that kind of an ending didn’t work at all.
You passed out of FTII with a gold medal in 1969 becoming the first trained woman technician in the industry. Is the Hindi film industry ready to accept female assistants and technician at sets in today’s times?
Yes, the attitude has definitely changed; the essentially male-dominated film industry has women in all roles today. There is a form of acceptance, a welcoming nature towards the opposite sex. Not solely due to their work but also owing to the ‘nayansukh’ aspect coming from girls on the sets. You understand ‘nayansukh’, right? (laughs)
There are a lot of women directors like Reema Kagti, Zoya Akhtar, Gauri Shinde that are prospering through their work in the film industry. Your take on their work?
It’s good that more and more women are entering the craft of film-making. They should try different genres as I am not a believer of subjecting oneself to a single genre. Be true to yourself and make whatever you want.
Edited by Shivani Singh
Feature Image Courtesy: Ishveena Paliwal