Day 3- Open Forum on ‘Women In Cinema’

Women are not just properties on frame; Rima Kallingal

Amid a startling audience at VC Haris Smrithi Hall at Tagore, an open forum on the topic
‘Women in Cinema’ brought new perspectives on the role of women in the 90 year long history
of Malayalam Cinema. The panel discussion went on to cover various topics such as the recent
incident of an attack on an actress and to the formation of molly wood’s first women’s collective.
The panelists were actress Parvathi and Rima Kallingal, cinematographers Fowzia Fatima and
Maheen, Directors Vidhu Vincent, Geethu Mohandas, and Suma Jose and film critic Deedi
Damodaran. The session was moderated by writer Meena T Pillai.
This film festival is changing the undercurrents of Malayalam cinema, especially for
women, said Vidhu Vincent. In old days, film societies were the only window to world cinema.
But when we look back, we can see that they were dominated by men. Unfortunately, that is the
case even now. Challenges and boundaries of women in cinema are getting wider and wider day
by day. How many women are economically able or having an open space to go to the theatres
alone, asked Rima Kallingal. What we want to have is equal representation for all in Malayalam
Cinema – let it be men, women, and transgender, gay or lesbian. We frown when we watch two
men or two women making out on the screen because we are not used to it. We have to see more
of that every day in our movies to change it, Rima added.
Sharing her traumatic personal experience, Actress Parvathi said she was engaged in an
abusive relationship in her younger days even after she was physically hurt because of the wrong
perception of relationships she had from Malayalam films of that time. We were grown up
watching the hero who receives applause in the theatres when he slaps a woman on screen. There
aren’t many movies which explores the sexuality of women in Malayalam Cinema till now. It is
through books that I gained the right perspective, she said. She also added that our film industry
is a failure in depicting characters without emphasizing their gender. Change has to begin at
economic level. Women have to be financially independent first and the narrative of movies
should change in favor of women so that more women audience will come to the theatres.
Vidhu Vincent said some producers are not willing to make movie with the victim of the
recent attack in the lead role anymore. It is as if a part of the industry has erased her off from the
cinema sphere.
Director Suma Jose said that both women and men are responsible for the identity and
space of women in various fields of life. More women should come forward bravely against all
the odds they face from their family and society. Cinematographer Maheen Mirza said the
grammar of current cinema is extremely misogynistic. But language of cinema is slowly
changing.
Director cum actress Geethu Mohandas said she had the privilege of working with some
beautiful male directors who consider everyone as equal. But that’s not the case for all. The
formation of Women’s Collective in Cinema (WCC) happened at a time of extreme need. A few

of us came together the next day after we heard about the tragic experience one of us had to go
through. That’s where this core team was formed. It happened as a natural reaction after I got a
call in the morning saying my coworker was brutally attacked. It brought us together. If you
touch one of us, all of us will react. We won’t stand still and WCC will always be there for
women in need.
Cinematographer Fowziya Fatima shared her bitter experience in shooting item numbers
for movies. She said showing nudity on screen is ok if it is aesthetically needed, but women
shouldn’t be just flesh oriented performers.
Meena T. Pillai concluded the session by saying, most of the time, the camera acts only
as the eyes of a man. This should change and more women should be part of the mainstream
cinema.

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