Indian Women Rising: Empowering Women in Cinema

Kakali Das

Indian women are rising; three amazing women, Ekta Kapoor, Guneet Monga and Tahira Kashyap have united to lay the foundation of a cinema collective,Indian Women Rising. My understanding of this is that these women ladies have decided to combine their sources and power and make room in the industry of film and entertainment for women directors who are producing, putting out films to tell stories about women in order for them to have space in the world. Presented by Indian Women Rising, Bittu is a short film that won the Student’s Oscar (Silver medal) in the year 2020, and this through this collective, Bittu will run for the Oscars as well.

On being asked about where did this ‘Indian Women Rising’ collective come from and what the thought process was behind it, Guneet Monga said, “I have shared this concept with Tahira almost a year ago. I feel that the films of people are made individually. Less than 5% women are directors in India and this was what the conversation started with. The process by the end of merely making a movie is so exhausting that they don’t really understand the marketing, the positioning, the festival run, the awards run post that, which calls for plenty of work to be done. The collective started in a heartbeat; there is enough expertise between the three of us, including muscle power, insights with years of working experience and we are here to discover, amplify and shine light on this aspect.”

Earlier, in times when we were celebrating women behind the screens and different facets of filmmaking, I do believe that till they reach the point where they get their first opportunity we have had them have their own set of struggles – multitasking, home-making and a lot of social stigmas attached to women getting out to work, especially in films. Moving out in the world and making a movie is probably the last effort they put in, after which they do not know where to take it from there.

“Getting the entire concept off the ground was Tahira Kashyap’s brainchild as someone who has written, directed in her career so far. As women we have managed to do this, and now its time for us to clear space and make room and lend power. As women filmmakers, producers we had that intention for quite some time now. I feel this is a thought which has been with all of us, and at some point some divine energies came and it just manifested and it has become this collective. So, it was latent in all our belief system and it just became very active”, Ekta Kapoor said.

If we won’t have more female filmmakers, we won’t have more stories about them, which goes on to say, whoever is closest to whatever gender can depict and has a wide spectrum of stories to tell. Here, we have half of the population which is not being celebrated in cinema, the stories and their struggles in a way that it should be.

Bittu is a heart-wrenching film, it tugs at the heart strings. Our intention for this collective starts from a very genuine, honest space for the love of cinema, and for the lovely movie that has been made. We thought of consolidating this movie and giving it a structure. That’s how “Indian Women Rising” came into being. The complete credit must be given to this film, Bittu, which has inspired the three of us to come up with this collective and make more such films with more women directors.We have genuinely fallen in love with Bittu and have come on-board to market it, not only here but across our access in LA and around the world and that has built our marketing strategies. – Guneet Monga further said.

Karishma Dube, a student of New York University has made a 17-minute short film, Bittu, as her student film and won the Student’s Oscar in 2020 with a silver, besides being played at Telluride Film Festival, BFI London Film Festival, including 18 other festivals. The film has had a huge festival run and it has won the Student’s Oscar. Because it won the Student’s Oscar, it got an Oscar qualifier, and is currently in the preliminary round with 175 more short films of other filmmakers. The shortlist will be announced on 9th of February.

Campaigning for the Oscar’s entails to amplify new stories, get into trade, infront of Oscar voters, and they follow certain trades, awards line. There are many Oscar qualifying short film festivals; a lot of short films do participate in a lot of festivals and get a qualifier i.e. the preliminary round, followed by the second round of promoting the film or campaigning it. Post these stages are the final nominations which will be public on 15th March, 2021. Throughout February and half of March will be the journey of bringing the film from top 10 to top 5, followed by the Oscars in April. The voter bank keeps on increasing every round, and the producers have to market and promote the film relentlessly throughout the process; it requires a lot of insights and the right support system, PR, festival programmers etc. It’s an ecosystem to tap into and it’s amazing to join those dots and keep all of those people supporting the projects.


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