Mukta A2 Cinemas hosted a 6-day long film festival to celebrate International Women’s Day which is observed on 8th March. The
film festival was hosted at the recently refurbished and iconic property New Excelsior Mukta A2 Cinema at Fort, Mumbai between 1st and 6th March. The film festival concluded with a panel discussion on the evolving role of women in the Indian cinema industry. The panel comprised Meghna Ghai Puri (President - Whistling Woods International), actor Aahana Kumra, Shanti Sivaram (Producer of Neerja & Tumhari Sulu) and Daria Gai(Ukrainian Film Director of critically-acclaimed Namdev Bhau fame), moderated by Somnath Sen (HOD Direction and Academic Affiliations – WWIL). An interesting and thought-provoking conclusion of the panel was that ‘bias is bias, whether gender, nationality or other forms’.
The panel discussion started on a grateful note where Meghna Ghai Puri and Shanti Sivaram shared their enthusiasm and joy of having a strong support system both at home and at their work places, the men and women of their lives who have been through thick and thin with them. Adding to this dose of gratefulness, the ladies also echoed another similarity that they have learnt over time how to create a work-life balance. While the panel spoke about their achievements and the support that they have received from fellow leading ladies and gentlemen in the industry, they also spoke about the gender pay-gap observed.
Speaking about the gender pay-gap and the Me Too movement in India, actor Aahana Kumra said, “While ratio of men versus women is growing, the pay-gap still has to be reduced, and although the web space, in terms of web series has created so many opportunities for artists and actors, gender pay-gap is still a very real and relevant issue. I have recently realized that it is still at a sizeable difference from what our male counterparts with equal scree-presence are paid and are required to put in more time for pre-shoot preparations like hair & make-up. Another notable aspect is the impact of the Me Too movement on how men conduct themselves and how women now have a platform to speak about the harassment that they have faced at the hands of family, friends, co-workers and acquaintances, my article in particular helped liberate me, helped me realize that it was not my fault and that I should have been more open about these issues.”
Adding to the same, Meghna Ghai Puri, President - Whistling Woods International said, “It is definitely still an issue but has been somewhat addressed in comparison to the 70s and 80s, I would say. Another issue is the female boss stereotype, that I have personally heard about a lot and I believe that female bosses are the same amount of stern or friendly as male bosses, its just a pre-conceived notion that female bosses can be a certain type of people. I think that as professionals we women should work towards uplifting other women and nurture young talents regardless to gender, etc.”
Talking about professionalism at the work place, critically-acclaimed Film Maker Daria Gai said, “I think that women in a professional environment have to be more careful, while I have never felt like I am being pushed by my fellow male co-workers, I think that I have to be more careful and dress appropriately to avoid uncomfortable gazing. And I am glad that thanks to the Me Too movement in India, men are reassessing the way they interact with women around them. I am all for talent, whether it is among men, women, Indian nationals, visiting artists, etc. Being of Ukrainian decent, I have faced issues where my work is considered international/non-Asian and I can empathize with the people who face the same issues, I wish these biases were not applicable and am glad that the guild is working towards it.”
Producer Shanti Sivaram added to the conversation saying, “While the gender pay-gap is very real, I am also glad that it has reduced considerably in the recent past, and films like Neerja, Tumhari Sulu, Manikarnika, etc. are seeing success. The term ‘hero’ is slowly losing prominence and talent is rising up. Adding to the growth of women and evolution of the role of women in the Indian Cinema industry, the Me Too movement has created a platform for women to speak-up and we owe that to the amount of effort put in by the flag-bearers of the movement to raise awareness about it.”
Speaking about the panel discussion and International Women's Day film festival activity, Rahul Puri, MD of Mukta Arts Ltd. & Mukta A2 Cinemas said, "Hosting a special screening, like the Women's Day film festival is one of the many endeavours that Mukta A2 Cinema stands for as a brand, we have always tried to create a comfortable and professional atmosphere along with an encouraging environment for our female staff. The thoughts echoed by the esteemed panel today were synonymous with our brand's take on women empowerment and growth across various spheres of the Indian Cinema industry. We applaud these wonderful women who have shared their stories and are a part of the evolution in the industry contributing to the growth of their fellow female co-workers."
The panel discussion went on for 30 minutes at the iconic New Excelsior Mukta A2 Cinema at Fort, Mumbai on 6th March.