“If a heroine asks for a pay hike, she’s looked as being problematic. But if a hero asks for a pay hike, he’s seen as being cool”, reveals Samantha
The actress was speaking in a roundtable discussion on ‘O Womaniya: 2021’, a report about representation of women in Indian cinema
March 4, 2021:On the occasion of International Women’s Day (March 8) this year, a report titled ‘O Womaniya: 2021’ will be launched jointly by media consulting firm Ormax Media and leading entertainment journalism platform Film Companion. The report will look at facts related to representation of women in Indian cinema from various perspectives. It aims to start a conversation in the film industry on how women need to have more participation in film-making, as well as have better roles being written for them.
A roundtable discussion was conducted with five women working in different aspects of the Indian film industry: actress Samantha Akkineni, actressTaapseePannu, award-winning film director Anjali Menon, Netflix India’s Director for Original Films Srishti Behl Arya, and Keiko Nakahara, who has been the cinematographer on several films, including Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior. Film critic Anupama Chopra was the host of the discussion.
Speaking about the difference in the pay of male and female actors, Samantha remarked: “Even if you are one of the top 3 heroines, your pay is much lesser than that of a hero who’s not even in top 20. If a heroine asks for a pay hike, she’s looked as being problematic. But if a hero asks for a pay hike, he’s seen as being cool”.
All the women on the panel agreed that while there may have been some improvement in representation of films in Indian cinema in recent years, a lot more needs to be done in an industry that is still predominantly male-centric. Speaking about her experiences in the early years of her film career, TaapseePannu said: “I was once asked to change my dialogues during the dubbing because the hero wanted them altered. I refused to do so, only to find out that after the release of the film, they had used a dubbing artist’s voice to change those dialogues”.
Cinematographer Keiko Nakahara said: “Working as a cinematographer on a film set is very physical and tiring. I may not be as physically strong as a man, but after doing my job for 15 years, I don’t think people judge me by my gender”.
Speaking about why the film industry has so few female directors, Anjali Menon said: “We have very few film directors in the Indian film industry because of lack of investor confidence. People tend to be judgmental and biased about female directors, that they can direct only a certain type of films, which is such a weird assumption to make. The first step is to highlight the disparity through the collection of data, which the O Womaniya! report is doing”.
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