The ongoing Kochi-Muziris Biennale earned further support in its feminist viewpoints when noted personalities of Indian cinema spoke against injustices against women in the film industry, suggesting solutions to overcome the disgrace.
Speakers at the start of a five-day movie segment as part of the 108-day festival emphasized the need for stronger acknowledgement of female artistes in cinema by also giving them space and dignity on par with the men in the field.
The Biennale Pavilion in the Cabral Yard venue of Fort Kochi thus became a platform for discussions on the role of present-day women in cinema. Experts spoke at the inaugural evening of the first set of movies screened on Friday evening at the Artists Cinema segment curated by film editor Bina Paul.
Actress Rima Kallingal said it was high time artistes raised their voice against the high and mighty in the film industry. “It took me years to raise my voice. It was a moment that gave me strength when I realised that it wasn’t only me who had the same urge. There were quite a few who wanted to fight against the system,” she said, recalling how a team of them eventually formed Women in Cinemas Collective (WCC) in November 2017. “We got many more women in this this collective over the time. Now, we boldly stand for all the heard and unheard voices in the industry.”
Bina, in her address, stressed the need for an egalitarian atmosphere for male and female professionals in the industry. “The female narrative (in cinema) emerges out of gender consciousness and sensitivity,” she added.
Bina, who is vice-chairperson of the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy, said Indian cinema has, despite its continuing history of gender discrimination, produced women who have managed to leave a mark. They have earned accolades, yet have remained under-recognized, she said.
“We do not stand for a separate platform or space for women professionals in our industry,” Bina pointed out. “We are very aware of our capabilities. We know how much we can contribute to this industry.”
Hairstylist Rehana Razaque hailed the role of the WCC in making female artistes in the film industry feel safe and dignified. “Several female professionals in the industry personally call me to say that WCC has helped them give self-respect,” she said. “No matter the criticism we earn, the WCC is functioning as a solution to our agonies.”
The discussions followed by screening of two films in the presence of young director Jubith Namradath and WCC members such as Kani Kusruti and Divya Gopinath.
Earlier in the evening, at a lecture, noted film editor Jethu Mundul talked about the history of early world cinema, with focus on the role of women both on and off the screen. His talk on ‘Women Pioneers in Early World Cinema’ at the Biennale’s four day Let’s Talk series (February 15 – 18), he gave an insight about the initial films around the globe and the way women acted in it.
“There have been a lot of women pioneers in cinema who have shaped it. But they are often ignored or edited out of the film history by not giving credit to their work,” said Mundul, an FTII alumnus with four decades of experience as editor for experimental films.
The Kochi Biennale Foundation, which is organising the ‘Artists’ Cinema’, notes that women-oriented films are a strong means of expressing the contemporary issues in society and also the role of women in cinema and the arts. The opening evening of the package screened a Hindi short film ‘Counterfeit Kunkoo’ (directed by Reema Sengupta), followed by ‘Aabhasam’ by Jubith Namradath in Malayalam.