What Do We Know Of The Women Off-Camera Who Create History In Bollywood?

Posted: December 13, 2018

While all of us may know the women on-screen, how much do we know of the gritty ladies behind it, those not in the limelight? Changemakers brings us the stories of these real life heroines.

When we talk of women in Bollywood, we perhaps think of the tall, slim, size zero figure actresses sashaying on the red carpets, spending millions on their destination weddings, and being internet sensations with their pictures of #makeupgoals #fitnessgoals or #couplegoals. When young girls aspire to work in Bollywood, perhaps they think that the only career choice that they have is that of a glamorous actress.

But what if they got to know that there are many more fascinating career options available in Bollywood? That there are women who are making sea changes in Hindi cinema, who are transforming the way we look at Bollywood through their relentless work behind the screens?

These women are donning the hats of writers, directors, lyricists, editors, makeup artists, stunt artists, stylists, gaffers, and changing the way we look at women professionals in Bollywood.

Changemakers written by Gayatri Rangachari Shah and Mallika Kapur gives us a glimpse into the lives of these unsung heroes, sorry, heroines who are shaping the way we look at Hindi cinema through their relentless grit and fiery passion.

This is a timely book. At a point in time when the #MeToo movement is making its presence felt in Bollywood, I believe the time has come for us to also to know more about these smart, fearless, and intelligent women working behind the scenes and creating history by paving a path for more women to enter the industry.

What’s even better is that the writers of this book not only give us information about these inspiring women, rather, through their wonderful writing they make every woman’s story read like a fictional narrative. Along with their thorough research, the writers have taken great care into the crafting of these stories. It is as if the spirits of those women have been infused through words into each of these chapters. Be it Juhi Chaturvedi’s serenity, Geeta Tandon’s fearlessness, or Anaita Shroff Adajania’s glamour quotient, I could almost feel their personalities exude through each and every chapter.

The stories read like a modern-day feminist fairy tales. The fairy tales that we (and our daughters) should most definitely read. No, these fairy tales are not about princesses getting their happy endings after being saved by knights in shining armours. Rather, these stories speak about the ‘happy ever after’ that a woman can achieve for herself and the heights of success she can reach when she puts her mind into her goals and refuse to take ‘no’ for an answer.

In this book, the princesses write their own destinies.

When Geeta Tandon is tortured and raped by her husband, she leaves his house with her children and goes on to become one of the most celebrated stunt artists in Bollywood. Every day on the sets Geeta risks her life, and yet, this life of independence and bravery makes her happy like never before. Her children are immensely proud of their mother who struggled against all odds to give them a life of respect and decency.

When Guneet Monga is grief stricken with the loss of her parents and is almost penniless, she takes a loan from a neighbour to produce a movie. And then when theatres refuse to run the movie, she travels with the movie to hold private shows in schools and colleges! The proof of her relentless spirit lies in the fact that today she is known as one of the ‘path breaking female producers of Bollywood, part of a new wave of Indian film-makers making a global impact.’

Also, how can one forget Kiran Rao, who currently heads MAMI (Mumbai Academy of Moving Image) and who is one of Bollywood’s most respected writer, director, producer ‘lauded as a flagbearer for independent cinema in India’? Despite being married to a husband who is the heart-throb of billions, Kiran shuns any air of celebrityhood and is one of the most down to earth people according to her colleagues and friends.

This book is studded with such wonderful stories of women who are changing the way we look at Hindi cinema through their ground-breaking work in every field. It traces the hardships and struggles that each of these women faced to carve a niche and make history in this extremely competitive male dominated industry.

It shows how gender bias and patriarchy are still some of the biggest roadblocks in women’s path and yet some women will choose to fight till the end. One such instance is that of make-up artist Charu Khurana, who brought about a revolution by fighting against the makeup industry’s unions and changing a draconian law, all because of her never give up attitude.

Did you know that till 2014, women in India were not allowed to work as make-up artists in films? After a lengthy legal battle, Charu helped remove this ‘fifty-nine-year-old patriarchal ban’.

Then there are stories of women like Rohini Iyer who is one of the most coveted Reputation Managers in Bollywood today. This is a role that she seemed to have created for herself after seeing a demand for such professionals among celebrities. Earlier, this job was done by the secretaries of the actors, but today, top stars from Katrina Kaif to Priyanka Chopra swear by Rohini’s warm service and professionalism.

Then we come to know of women like Hetal Dedhia who happens to be the first female gaffer in Bollywood. A gaffer is the chief lighting technician, someone who is involved ‘in the production of the film, managing every single task in lighting.’ The reason why Hetal wanted to opt for this profession? Her simple answer: “No woman was doing it.”

This book is filled with such inspiring stories about women who are creating real changes through their phenomenal work in the Hindi film industry. This is not only a brilliant read to celebrate women power, but the stories of ordinary women achieving extraordinary feats will surely inspire a lot of young women to consider some lesser known career paths.

As Kiran Rao says, “…I do think we need a lot of women out there to show other girls that it’s possible to be a film-maker, a cinematographer, a show-runner.” This book does just that. It tells stories that might motivate more and more women to join the industry and bring about a revolution in areas that have so far been dominated by men.

Want a copy of this book?

If you’d like to pick up Changemakers: Twenty Women Transforming Bollywood from Behind the Scenes by Gayatri Rangachari Shah and Mallika Kapur, use our affiliate links: at Flipkart, at Amazon Indiaand at Amazon US.

Women’s Web gets a small share of every purchase you make through these links, and every little helps us continue bringing you the reads you love!

Image source YouTube and book cover via Amazon

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