Women breaking glass ceiling in Malayalam film industry

By Sanu George, IANS
Monday, February 28, 2011

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM - First Bollywood and now the Malayalam film industry. Women are making inroads in the male-dominated territory of filmmaking, quitting cushy jobs and breaking away from their settled lives to wield the megaphone.

Take 38-year-old Shiny J. Koshy who took a break from Kuwait, where her husband was employed, and took the plunge into filmmaking. Today she is busy working as an assistant director to award-winning filmmaker Jairaj in his latest film “The Train”, which stars Malayalam superstar Mammootty.

“Twelve years back I had worked as an assistant with Jairaj for two of his films and due to reasons of my own I took a break from films. Now, since I have a lot of time, I have decided to rejoin him,” Koshy told IANS.

“I will be assisting him in his next film also. I am simultaneously working on my own film…I will announce it at an appropriate time,” she added.

Then there is 33-year-old Sangeeta Padmanabhan. A qualified media professional, Padmanabhan was till recently working with a leading TV channel. But her dream of becoming a full-fledged filmmaker made her quit her job and jump into the world of films.

Two years back she made her first film “Charulatayude Baaki” and the 24-minute fiction got her a special jury award at the last International Film Festival of India.

“I have decided that this is going to be my full-fledged profession. Right now, I am waiting for an idea so as to begin work for my next film,” she said.

She noted that till a decade ago there were hardly any female filmmakers in the Malayalam industry but now there are over a dozen, whom she knows personally.

“I have had no issues being a filmmaker and the biggest impediment, which is the same for any new male director, is the dearth of people who are willing to finance your ideas. I pumped in my own money in the film I made and I treated it as an investment for my career,” she added.

Like Padmanabhan, 39-year-old Shiny J. Benjamin also quit her TV job to enter the world of films. She has scripted and directed 13 documentaries till date.

“I met director Priyadarshan recently and expressed my desire to work as his assistant and he agreed. He has included me in his next film that stars Salman Khan. I am also working on my own project, and hopefully it would begin towards the end of this year,” said Benjamin.

On the question of funding films directed by women directors, Suresh Kumar, a leading producer in the Malayalam film industry, said: “Why not, I would be the first person to pump in money for a film to be directed by a lady provided there is a good script and a subject.”

“I have been told there are a few aspiring directors waiting in the wings to direct a film. I feel they have more positives than negatives because women generally don’t rush into things unlike male directors who are more interested in the use of technology in direction and keen to do self-promotion,” said Kumar, who has been in the field for close to three decades.

However, these aspiring female directors definitely don’t want a special award category for women directors in the national and state film awards.

“May be, there can be more women in the awards jury. Currently, there is just one woman in our state awards jury,” Benjamin said.

(Sanu George can be contacted sanu.g@ians.in)

–Indo Asian News Service

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