“I never bargain with any woman I work with”
In the latest episode of ‘Maitri: Female First Collective’, powerful women in the entertainment industry explain how they’re leading the charge
Imagine walking into a job interview, nerves fraying like an old cotton sari because it’s time to have ‘the talk’. That awkward moment when your future employer asks you to disclose your salary expectations. You try not to self-sabotage by underquoting, but also steel yourself for a lowball offer that you may be forced to accept. After all, few women are actually taught how to advocate for themselves.
Creator and producer Elahe Hiptoola knows exactly how thorny a position that is, so she doesn’t “bargain with any female actor I work with. When they come to the table to negotiate, they come on the backfoot, thinking they are getting this show, or the lead character, and they don’t want to lose it for money,” she explains. “But the show will sell because of them eventually, so no one is doing anyone a favor.”
If this anecdote feels like an anomaly, it’s because it is. And that’s exactly what Prime Video is trying to evolve with Maitri: Female First Collective, a series of quarterly sessions with women in entertainment. The initiative will serve as a safe space for participants to share their aspirations, successes, and challenges, allowing everyone to learn from each other’s experiences.
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The latest episode was crackling with energy thanks to its participants: Moderated by the creator and curator of Maitri, Smriti Kiran, the participants comprised Aparna Purohit, creator – Maitri and head of India Originals, Prime Video; Indhu VS, writer and director; Ratheena Plathottathil, writer, director and producer; Elahe Hiptoola, creator and producer; Parvathy Thiruvothu, actor and director; Rima Kallingal, actor, producer and performing artist; Shreya Dev Dube, filmmaker and cinematographer and Neha Parti Matiyani, cinematographer.
Though Matiyani herself felt typecast as a cinematographer of romantic comedies because of her gender, she’s tried to be the force of change by being a leader to her all-female crew. “I give them freedom in terms of bringing in suggestions and being a part of the whole creative process,” she explains.
Anecdotes like this inspired the participants with Purohit exulting, “To hear things like ‘we have women writers in our writers’ rooms’, or ‘our women characters have agency’ and ‘our content will definitely pass the Bechdel test’, in conversations with creators, for me, is a major step in the right direction. As the next step, we want to strive to have at least 30% women heads of department across all our productions.”
This session of Maitri took stock of the progress so far while taking the lead in asking the hard questions on making the industry more inclusive, creating more opportunities and valuing women for their contributions. Watch and learn for yourself here:
To catalyse and support the progress of the entertainment industry, Prime Video has launched a dedicated social community for Maitri, making it easier for women creators to connect, correspond and collaborate with each other. View Maitri’s social community here: Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube
Explaining that the Maitri community will aim to build opportunities that lead to a seismic shift in representation, co-creator and curator of Maitri, Smriti Kiran says, “Maitri is a space we all wanted but didn’t have. It has been created to connect women working across the vast and varied Indian film industry, have honest conversations about challenges we face, try and find solutions to those problems and build opportunities that lead to a seismic shift in representation. It is that first step one hopes will lead to giant leaps.”