Event, May 6: Directing Change – Gender Representation in South Asian Films and Television

Southasia Peace Action Network partners with eShe to host a women-led online panel discussion ‘Directing Change’ on gender representation in Southasian films and television on 6 May 2023.

Cinema and television play an intrinsic part in mirroring – and defining – popular culture and gender norms in Southasia. 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 Southasia – 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 Southasia – 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, a media platform that amplifies women’s voices, and Southasia Peace Action Network, or Sapan, will host a live virtual panel discussion titled ‘Directing Change: Gender Representation in South Asian Films and Television’.

You can watch and participate on YouTube or Facebook:

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 Southasia.

Event: Directing Change: Gender Representation in South Asian Films and Television

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. 

Aisha Gazdar, multiple award-winning filmmaker and founder of Films d’Art, an independent film production company based in Karachi. Her work concerns human rights and social issues, especially women’s rights.

Anna MM Vetticad, well-known Indian journalist, author, feminist and cultural commentator. She is an advocate for women’s empowerment and the representation of marginalised communities in popular entertainment. 

Muktasree Chakma, rights activist, researcher and Bangladesh’s first indigenous woman to win the UNICEF Meena Media Award. She’s the founder of SPaRC, an indigenous women-led organisation, and a core group member of Sangat, A Feminist Network.

Sadia Khalid Reeti, film critic, screenwriter, 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 is also a voter for the Golden Globe Awards.

Saloni Chopra, actor, writer, and a filmmaker based out of Australia and India. She authored a memoir Rescued by a Feminist, and is 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. 

Shailja Kejriwal, chief creative officer, special projects, at Indian media and entertainment giant ZEE group. She is the only Southasian woman to have created cross-border content for television, web series, films and theatre.

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

The session will be hosted and moderated by eShe’s founder editor Aekta Kapoor.

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

Note on Southasia as one word: Following the lead of Himal Southasian, Sapan uses ‘Southasia’ as one word, “seeking to restore some of the historical unity of our common living space, without wishing any violence on the existing nation states”. Writing Sapan like this rather than all caps makes it a word that means ‘dream’.

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