Celebrating Women and Cinema: A Rendezvous with Shefali Bhushan

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On the 5th anniversary of Centre of Women Studies, University of Allahabad, the film-maker Shefali Bhushan having her roots in Allahabad, graced the dais speaking about women, Bollywood and her journey. Here’s a report by Sehar.

With the nip of spring in the air, Saturday afternoon (February 20), became a reason for many to celebrate women and cinema. The students and faculty of the University of Allahabad came under one roof to celebrate the 5th Anniversary of the Centre of Women Studies (CWC), at the University Guest House.

The history of anniversary lectures held by the centre is splendid. Therefore, the hall was filled to capacity. Students, research scholars, professors and other faculty members were present.

The session was opened by director of the CWC, Prof Smita Bahaguna Agarwal. The occasion was also graced by the presence of the Vice Chancellor, Prof R.L. Hangloo and Dean, Faculty of Arts, Prof A. Satyanarayana.

The Vice Chancellor of the university spoke at length about women, practical difficulties they faced during their education and possible solutions. He said that the need of the hour was “action, not activism”. The landmark announcement, amidst applause, was that the CWC would soon be developed into a full-fledged department. It would be shifted to a larger place.

Dr. Ruchika Verma invited the guest speaker, Shefali Bhushan, after throwing light on her career and work profile.

The filmmaker made her presence felt in the industry after the release of her movie Jugni in January 2016. Shefali is a writer and director. She has been recently in news for her directorial debut. The movie is a musical journey of a young music composer with ingredients of romance and folk music in it.

After finishing her master’s from Jamia Millia Islamia, Shefali worked in the film industry as an Assistant Director. Soon after she started working with Beat India, as a collator and collector, which brought her close to the life and music of folk artists. She shifted gears and joined the film industry when she thought her job was unable to satisfy her creative instincts.

After eight years of journey, which involved a lot of hard work and passion, her movie Jugni finally hit the silver screen, early this year.

Her stories, her opinions and her ideas come straight from the heart, making them realistic and closer to life. She personally feels that it is the shade of grey that makes us humans. Therefore, her stories are quite relatable and the audience identifies with it, easily.

In context of portrayal of women in films, she stated that the portrayal of woman on the screen is fast changing, though male gaze is still a deciding factor in some cases. She further added that till date, there are very few film makers, who are ready to invest their money in women centric films or stories having women as protagonists. They still believe that it is the man or the male actor who pulls audiences into the cinema.

She pointed out that there is a huge disparity in the payments that male and female actors command. A top female actor is paid Rs 10 crore, per film, while the top male actor is offered Rs 60 to Rs 70 crore, per film. She agonised that there are very few female technicians in Bollywood. The hold of the male bastion is much too strong.

But of course, the scenario is quickly changing with the release of women centric films like Neerja and Queen. During her speech, she also added that she personally has experienced no discrimination in the film industry during her journey as a director or writer.

The session ended with an open house where students and faculty members raised questions and voiced their opinions about the Indian film industry.

Earlier, the director of CWC, Prof Agarwal, presented the annual report. The dean also spoke on the occasion. The event closed with Sarabjeet Mukherjee proposing the vote of thanks.

“The most ordinary word, when put into place, suddenly acquires brilliance. That is the brilliance with which your images must shine.” ~ Robert Bresson

Pix by CWC and Net

Sehar is a communication skills trainer, she has good experience in writing on various issues. She is a blogger, book writer and enthusiastic traveller. A native of Allahabad, she believes in experiencing the small things of life in a big way. Sehar likes to work in groups and learn new things. Her motto is to enjoy life in small packets.