I'm not a feminist messiah: Aparna Sen

Acclaimed actress-filmmaker Aparna Sen says she is no feminist messiah and that she doesn't believe that women can only make "delicate", "women-oriented" films which always show the gender in a positive light.

Sunday, September 15, 2013 | 5:54:03 PM IST (+05:30 GMT)
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aparna sen

Acclaimed actress-filmmaker Aparna Sen says she is no feminist messiah and that she doesn't believe that women can only make "delicate", "women-oriented" films which always show the gender in a positive light.

"When a woman makes a film, I don't know why people think it will be about women only. I am not a feminist messiah that I will only talk about women's issues if I am a woman. I think we should, like men, talk about human beings in our films. And as a woman, I see no wrong in showing a woman as evil and corrupt. Why must we always show women as glorified beings," Sen said here Sunday.

"Many people say, 'Oh if you're a woman, you can only make delicate films on emotional subjects.' Many people in the industry feel that a woman filmmaker can't handle a war film.

"For example, if there was a film on World War II or say an adventure film, and the option was from a male or a female director, the man would be given the chance. The woman would not get it. Perhaps that's the only discrimination I have faced as a woman filmmaker," she added.

Sen spoke here Sunday during a panel discussion on the 'Role of women - On and off screen and the road ahead".

The panellists also included Canadian filmmaker T.C. McLuhan and South Asian Film Festival co-founder Hannah Fisher, as well as Ladakh's woman filmmaker Dechan Phyang. It was held at an open air amphitheatre at the Sindhu Sanskriti Kendra.

As a filmmaker, Sen has touched upon sensitive subjects through her movies. She says life for a woman filmmaker can be tough especially when it comes to balancing the professional and personal aspects.

"For a woman, only a film is not everything. She has to work as well, and balance home and work. As a woman, I have never felt extra special or privileged, and I never even felt any discrimination as such.

"But when I started as an actress, that time a lot of friends' in-laws used to tell them not to be in the company of an actress. But it's great that nobody thinks so anymore.

"Nowadays, if people have a daughter, many people think how to put her in a reality show or a film. So there are not that many problems but yes there's 'ghar ka kaam', and 'bahaar ka kaam'. It gets tough to balance," she added.

Sen says she never had a tough time switching from being in front of the camera to going behind it.

"As a woman filmmaker, I never faced discrimination as I already had the visibility and celebrity status as an actress. The only thing is that I often felt I should have had a wife because balancing the personal and professional life is tough. There are family commitments, people expect you to attend family functions, be with friends... it gets tough," she said.

There are hardships, she pointed out, and said: "There's a men's club where a man can go upto a male producer and say, 'Let's meet over a beer', and clinch a deal. But if a woman does that, it will be taken as a sexual advance."

She says nobody can take a woman for granted in the industry if she knows her job well.

"I have always found my film unit to be a disciplined bunch. I feel if they know that the woman filmmaker knows her job well, they will listen to her.

"When I entered filmmaking, I didn't even know what lens to use so I used to ask the cameraman to show me all. All I knew was the picture I wanted, and I approached the challenge as a student. I took the cameraman's help and learnt my way through."

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