Gender representation in South Asian films and television | eShe panel discussion

eShe and Southasia Peace Action Network invite you to a live virtual event on 6 May 2023 titled 'Directing Change: Gender Representation in South Asian Films and Television', featuring eminent directors, producers and journalists.

Cinema and television play an intrinsic part in mirroring – and defining – popular culture and gender norms in South Asia. Viewers from the region derive not just entertainment from films and TV shows, but also pick up on the underlying messaging regarding gender roles and notions of masculinity and femininity embedded in plots and scripts.

While there have always been outliers in film and television, a broader gaze across the content developed in South Asia – especially Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi productions – reveals troubling patterns with regards to depiction of gender.

As an example, a 2022 study of almost 700 Hindi films found several commercially successful movies to be riddled with sexist and misogynist dialogues. The study said that Bollywood movies – which constitute the largest film industry in South Asia – continue to depict women through a patriarchal prism.

The impact of such content on viewers – many of whom are uneducated and underprivileged – is glaring and grim.

The good news is that things are changing for the better. With more women entering the film and television industries in positions of power and influence as directors, producers and scriptwriters besides actors, and with the advent of web content, there has been a gradual, positive shift in the portrayal of women and gender roles on screen.

To look at this transition, eShe along with Southasia Peace Action Network will host a live virtual panel discussion titled ‘Directing Change: Gender Representation in South Asian Films and Television’.

This virtual event is part of eShe magazine’s nonprofit initiative South Asia Union, a platform to empower women leaders to further the cause of peace in South Asia.

Date: 6 May 2023

Time: 3.30 pm PKT / 4 pm IST / 4.30 pm BST

Eminent filmmakers, critics and journalists from the region will be speaking at the event. The session will be moderated by eShe’s founder editor Aekta Kapoor.

Closing remarks will be made by Beena Sarwar, renowned journalist, documentary filmmaker and peace activist, who is the founder curator of Southasia Peace Action Network (Sapan) and founder editor of Sapan News.

Sapan is a coalition of over 40 organisations and over 300 individuals working towards freedom of trade, travel and tourism in Southasia, people-to-people contact, and for soft borders or visa on arrival for South Asians in each other’s countries.

Follow the event page on your preferred social-media platform to watch and participate in the live discussion.

Here are the speakers in alphabetical order.

Aisha Gazdar

Aisha Gazdar is a filmmaker and founder of Films d’Art, an independent film production company based in Karachi. Her award-winning films include The Honour Deception, a short documentary on honour killings and the complications arising out of the Qisas and Diyat Law (Law of Retribution). The film won the Best Documentary Award – Jury at the 2nd Shorts Delhi International Film Festival 2013. Aisha Gazdar’s Silent Voices: Women home-based workers in Pakistan won the best documentary award at the Canadian Labour International Film Festival in 2010. Other films include The Last Day: A True Story of a Hibakusha, which won Special Jury Mention at Kara Film Festival. Her work concerns human rights and social issues, especially women’s rights.

Anna MM Vetticad

Anna M.M. Vetticad is an award-winning Indian journalist, feminist and cultural commentator. She is the author of the book The Adventures of an Intrepid Film Critic, an overview of the contemporary Hindi film industry. Anna is known for her political critiques of Indian cinema and the country’s many film industries. In a career spanning 29 years, she has worked with India Today magazine, Indian Express newspaper and India Today TV. As an independent journalist now, she writes for various Indian and international publications. She is an advocate for women’s empowerment and the representation of marginalised communities in popular entertainment. Anna is a recipient of the prestigious Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award.

Muktasree Chakma

Muktasree Chakma is a Bangladeshi indigenous rights activist, feminist and researcher. A former journalist with a background in law, Muktasree founded Supporting People and Rebuilding Communities – SPaRC, an indigenous women-led organisation based in Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh. She is a core group member of Sangat, A Feminist Network; a bureau member of South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR); a general board member of Action Aid Bangladesh; and a member of the Civil Society Advisory Group of UN Women Bangladesh. She was Bangladesh’s first indigenous woman to win the UNICEF Meena Media Award, and the first indigenous woman to be selected as Senior Indigenous Fellow and a fellow of the UN OHCHR Fellowship Programme, Acumen Fellowship Bangladesh Programme and Swedish Institute, Sweden.

Sadia Khalid Reeti

Sadia Khalid Reeti is a film critic and screenwriter. She studied screenwriting at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Currently the Showtime Editor of Dhaka Tribune, Sadia has served as a jury member at different international film festivals in Italy, India, England, Nepal, France, Russia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. She served as a FIPRESCI jury at Cannes Film Festival, International Film Festival of Kerala and Dhaka International Film Festival. She is also a voter for the Golden Globe Awards. A Berlinale Talents alumna, she attended mentorship programs with Film Independent and Locarno Open Doors and is the recipient of Charles Wallace Fellowship from the British Council. She also teaches film studies at different universities and institutions. 

Saloni Chopra

Saloni Chopra is an actor, writer, and a filmmaker based out of Australia,and India. She played the lead role in Girls on Top, a joint production by BBC and MTV India. She also featured in Maya, a short film which was part of the Official Cannes Selection 2013. Saloni is the author of the memoir Rescued by a Feminist, and a vocal advocate for women’s rights and personal agency. Her first film as a director, writer, producer and protagonist is Coconut, an Australian feature film made with a diverse cast and crew. Coconut is a story of modern love and identity at a crossroads with culture and tradition. Saloni strives to be a filmmaker who highlights the stories of women, especially women of colour, and hopes to continue to use her voice to elevate these stories, so that their lived experiences can be shared with the world.

Shailja Kejriwal

Shailja Kejriwal is an accomplished name in the field of Indian media and entertainment industry, and the only South Asian woman to have created cross-border content for television, web series, films and theatre. She is chief creative officer, special projects, at Indian media and entertainment giant ZEE group. She pioneered path-breaking content that united India and Pakistan on a single platform for the first time in over 60 years through the television channel Zindagi and the production project of 12 films, Zeal for Unity. She has produced nationally acclaimed films and conceptualised Zee Theatre, which has presented over 80 thought-provoking teleplays since 2015. A storyteller at heart, she launched India’s first-ever television movies with Star Bestsellers, and is one of the rare few who brings together creativity, commerce, and cause.

Watch the panel discussion live on your preferred social-media platform.

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