From having no toilets for women in cinemas to women filmmakers winning big, how far have we come?
Amazon Prime Video & MAMI launch ‘Maitri: Female First Collective’, a series of quarterly sessions with women from the creative industry
Do you know how many women have won the Palme d’Or, one of the most prestigious prizes in cinema, at the Cannes Film Festival? Only 2 — one of them having won it last year, before which the number stood still at 1 for 75 long years.
The Academy Awards aren’t much different either. Before Chinese-born filmmaker Chloe Zhao made history as the first Asian woman to win the Best Director Award last year, only 1 other woman had won the award in the Oscars’ 93-year history.
We’ve come a long way from having no toilets for women in cinemas — as Amrita Pandey, CEO of Junglee Pictures & Times Studios Originals, recalls in the first quarterly session of Maitri — to women finally coming into their own but the pace is glacial at best, and as the Prada-wearing Miranda Priestly puts it, we all know how thrilling that is.
To combat just that, Amazon Prime Video has partnered with the Mumbai Academy of Moving Image (MAMI) to launch Maitri: Female First Collective. An initiative that, through quarterly sessions with women from different fields within the creative industry, will serve as a safe space for women to share their aspirations and learn from each other’s experiences.
In the first session of Maitri, 16 illustrious women who are in pivotal roles in the industry, sit down and chat about unblocking the many challenges women face in the entertainment industry.
These women include Amrita Pandey, CEO, Junglee Pictures & Times Studios Originals, Ayesha DeVitre Dhillon, Screenwriter & Hairstylist, Bhavani Iyer, Screenwriter & Author, Gayathri, Filmmaker, Jeeva, Filmmaker, Juhi Chaturvedi, Screenwriter, Kunjila Mascillamani, Filmmaker, Mini Mathur, Actor & TV Host, Nupur Asthana, Filmmaker, Richa Chadha, Actor & Producer, Rintu Thomas, Filmmaker, Shweta Tripathi Sharma, Actor & Producer, Sumukhi Suresh, Comedian, Actor, Writer, Creator, Founder & CE-HOE, Motormouth, Tahira Kashyap Khurrana, Filmmaker & Author, Aparna Purohit, head of India Originals, Amazon Prime Video, and Smriti Kiran, Artistic Director of MAMI who curated the room and moderated the discussion.
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Having studied filmmaking at a women’s college, I know first-hand what having a community of women to learn and grow from can do to the confidence of female students who are not used to seeing many role models of their own gender working in the industry.
I remember feeling a strange surge of power course through me whenever I would be holding up our studio equipment. My friends would blame it on the cup of coffee I’d gulp down to find my superhuman strength as I had to carry around a studio camera and tripod for an entire day, but I would like to believe it was because I was reclaiming all those times women in entertainment have been made to feel less than, much like Mini Mathur and Richa Chadha were, as they recall in the first episode of Maitri.
Kashyap-Khurrana, whose directorial debut Sharmaji Ki Beti is slated for release soon, looks back on when she first started writing for films, “After I had a narration, and a couple of shots to back my vision and my craft, the person said, ‘Acha chalo tum script likh sakti ho, why don’t you just stick to being a writer? I don’t know why every writer wants to become a director’ and I really had to put my foot down that this is what I want. This is my deal, I’m approaching you with a vision and I want to direct.”
From talking about the times they were acutely made aware of their gender in their workplace to creating more opportunities for women in the industry, the women offered their best advice on traversing the tricky terrain that is the entertainment industry.
Mentioning how this “small, yet significant step” taken by Amazon Prime and MAMI will make way for an impactful change, Aparna Purohit, head of India Originals, Amazon Prime Video, says, “Maitri means friendship or kinship, and the idea behind this initiative was to create a space for women to get together as friends, contemporaries and colleagues to collaborate, communicate and pave the way for others to follow.”
According to Smriti Kiran, Creator and Curator, Maitri, this will be “a 24/7 space that will keep growing and evolving”. Adding that they have enormous work to do, she says, “Our effort is to start at the foundation, bring mindfulness of the very basics, address our own biases, and begin by making the industry a far more humane and equitable place to work.”
If you’re someone who has always dreamed of working in the entertainment industry, be it in front of or behind the camera, what better way to learn than from the experience of accomplished trailblazers who are inspiring us all to dream big?
Watch and learn for yourself: