Jul 14, 2017

Indian Film Industry must make space for ‘lady-oriented’ films


Celebrating the release of Lipstick Under My Burkha, Oxfam India today urged the Indian film fraternity to produce more women oriented cinema and make space for many more women filmmakers to tell stories from the perspectives of women and girls.

Lipstick Under My Burkha was presented the Oxfam Best Film on Gender Equality Award at the MAMI Film Festival in 2016. The film has broken stereotypes about women and challenged regressive gender based social-norms and deep rooted patriarchy in our society.

A special pre-screening of the film was held today at the American Centre along with a panel discussion on the ‘Influence of Films on Gender Norms’.

The discussion was moderated by Film critic & Journalist Shubhra Gupta with panellists Director of Lipstick Under My Burkha Alankrita Shrivastava, Director of Anaarkali of Aarah Avinash Das, USAID Program Officer Jolie Cary and Oxfam India CEO Nisha Agrawal.

According to a 2016 report by Geena Davis Institute on Gender & Media, in India though many women are seen on screen, they have far fewer speaking roles or named parts in movies. The report further says that though this is true across the world, Indian films are nearly at the bottom, with only 25% of speaking parts belonging to women.

India sees only 9% female directors, 12% female writers, and 15% female producers. These are less than global averages.

“Our society is deeply influenced by what Bollywood portrays. Films that depict female characters as second class citizens, and amplify masculinity in stereotypical macho ways, make girls more accepting of violence in their lives and boys more likely to inflict it. Recent films that have conveyed strong messaging on gender issues, have usually done so through the lens of powerful male characters and actors. The low representation of women writers, directors & producers in Indian cinema is correlational to the absence of such strong characters and women oriented films,” Oxfam India CEO Nisha Agrawal.

“It is crucial to have space for the female gaze in Indian cinema. For too long cinematic storytelling has been controlled by men and molded by the male gaze. So, the representation of women on screen has suffered. It is important to represent the female point of view in cinema. We must change how women are looked at in cinema. And for that we definitely need more women and more sensitised men behind the camera. It is wonderful to have Oxfam encourage conversations about women and cinema,” said Director of Lipstick Under My Burkha Alankrita Shrivastava.

“All sorts of narratives are important for a balanced society. However, our society is very resistant to ideas of a woman’s sexuality, their desires, and other issues which challenge gender norms. As filmmakers, we often find it difficult to sell such non-conventional ideas. When organisations like Oxfam support these ideas, filmmakers are encouraged to push the envelope. Moreover, this also sends a message that non-conventional films have a market,” said Director of Anaarkali of Aarah Avinash Das.

Jolie Carey, Program Development Officer with USAID/India, one of the organizing partners of the film screening and panel discussion, said "Gender equality is a key goal for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) globally.  USAID/India is proud to support gender equality objectives to improve the lives of men and women and collaborate with our Indian partners.  We are delighted that the film industry is joining the cause with cutting-edge films like Lipstick Under My Burkha."

Lipstick Under My Burkha was conferred the Award in October last year at the Mumbai Film Festival. The award category focused on films that challenge gender-based social norms which lead to gender inequality, and hence to the global pandemic of violence against women.

The film was selected as it creatively and effectively takes on marital rape, religious orthodoxy, sexuality of older women and most importantly women taking agency over their bodies.


For media queries please contact

Himanshi Matta

Media Coordinator