Lady Shri Ram College kicked Day 1 of its annual cultural festival, Tarang 2018 with a ‘Dialogue and Discussion’ on ‘(Un)Gendering Indian Cinema’. The discussion saw acclaimed actor Ratna Pathak Shah, actor turned director, activist Rahul Bose and film director Leena Yadav as part of the panel. The discussion was moderated by Dr Anjali Bhatia from the Department of Sociology at Lady Shri Ram College. The format of the event allowed each panellist to address the audience for about 7-10 minutes, followed by a question and answer session with the audience.
Dr. Bhatia opened the discussion with pertinent comments about production and consumption of cinema and raised the question of why as audiences we consume, what we consume. Rahul Bose contended that a ‘360-degree approach’ was required to tackle gender discrimination. He shared the example of the California Tobacco Control Programme of 1988 and concluded that cinema did not control social attitudes in any country. He also emphasised on the need to subvert the ideas of masculinity and machismo, if not beat them. He also spoke about men as ‘secondary victims’ of violence against women and their need for counselling.
Ratna Pathak started by making an observation that the panel was ‘preaching to the converted’ and reinstated Bose’s point of bringing men into the dialogue around gender. She covered a wide range of ideas in her address. The most interesting bit was when she asked the audience how many of them had mothers who ‘worked’. When a few hands shot up, she asked why the others assumed that their mothers did not ‘work’ and talked about the unpaid labour that domestic work is. She also spoke about her own experiences of being gendered through cinema and how it took 30 years for her to unlearn what she had been taught all those years. She also talked about how cinema created attitudes that went unchallenged.
Leena Yadav, of “Parched” fame, who also happens to be an LSR alumna herself, spoke about her experiences in the film film industry. She shared how when she had joined the industry; she felt she was being boxed into a category of being a ‘woman director’. This terminology was unique as men have been referred to just as ‘directors’ and not ‘male directors’. She spoke about how cinema planted belief systems and that it takes time to ‘peel off conditioning’.
In the question and answer round, many interesting questions were asked by the audience about the social responsibility of cinema, the representation of the LGBTQ community, the agency of women actors and interestingly, also about women who worked behind the camera. Rahul Bose spoke about the disparity in the number of women that graduated from film schools and the ones that get to be a part of the film industry. Ratna Pathak also spoke about how gendering worked by ‘convincing the oppressed’ and how people need to fight against ideas like ‘Aurat Aurat ki Sabse Badi Dushman hai’ (women are each other’s worst enemies). She also spoke about the need to not always look at the older generations to learn the right thing.
The discussion spanned over an hour and a half. After the question answer session, the event concluded with a vote of thanks by the principal of Lady Shri Ram College.