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woman, where art thou?

Jayakrishnan of jaykayu@rediffmail.com posted a comment on this blog on 17.1.2010:

Thanks a lot for Happy Journey. It was wonderful – my favorite from Kerala Cafe. I hope upcoming artists like you can answer the foreign delegate at IFFK who asked “Where have all the Malayali women directors gone?”. All the best!

Thank you Jayakrishnan. Very glad to know you liked HJ.

I am proud to be a woman; but in the term ‘woman filmmaker’ – I wish there was more focus on ‘filmmaker’ rather than ‘woman’. I hope that will eventually happen when I do more work in this field.

I do not know which foreign delegate you are referring to; but at IFFK 2009, I had an amusing experience where suddenly a gentleman rushed towards me with the French-Senegalese filmmaker Mama Keita in tow… his idea was to find the answer to the filmmaker’s query about women filmmakers of Kerala!  Thanks to his good intention, I had a chance of sharing with Mama Keita the names of more prominent women filmmakers. But I could not deny that there were very few indeed.

Another instance was when the film critic and writer Daniela Bisogni asked why there weren’t too many women attending the festival. She mentioned on stage that she was happy that women had won competition prizes and expressed her hope that this would prompt more women to be part of IFFK as filmmakers and audience.

Yet another discussion took place over a breakfast table with Uma Da Cunha, the Indian film curator. Her observation was that when she visited Kerala homes, men rarely introduced their wives or made them part of any serious discussion- “oh… she’s busy in the kitchen” was apparently the quoted excuse.

After an open forum session, a young South African delegate had similar questions.

Fact is that “very few women filmmakers” is not just a phenomenon in Kerala- it is true of India and of the world. But since Kerala boasts of statistics like 100% literacy, a higher female-male population ratio, a matrilineal heritage in some Kerala communities, a higher educated female population than the rest of the country – they wonder why things are not different here.

When such people ask “WHY?” I rarely know where to start…

is it our history?

our social norms?

our role of woman in a family?

our education system?

but coming to think of it- dont we make all of the above??

We” refers to you and me / man and woman / the people.

Isn’t it time we came up with some answers? Or is it time for us to be the change?

Comments: 38

  • zinemaya January 17, 201011:32 am

    Hi Anjali,

    I watched Kerala Cafe today here in Boston, Unfortunately Malayalam movies releases only after a month of it’s original release.

    I chose four movies from KF as my favorite and yours is one among them .
    Let me express my sincere gratitude for making such a surpassingly wonderful movie on a simple subject. Good Luck.

    My other favorites
    Shyamaprasad – Season
    Anvar rasheed – Bridge

  • Shyla Thomas January 17, 201011:52 am

    The answer is people like you who actually proved..
    Let you be an inspiration for those who want to step into this and explore more. At the end, its a good filmmaker we need- man or woman.

    I could not watch KC – when will it be in DXB?
    Take it forward Anjali.. its just a beginning. All the best!!

  • Shahid January 17, 201012:11 pm

    Of course.. We should learn to respect each other irrespective of the gender. Everyone speaks, only a few live accordingly. Let ourselves the change we wish to see.

  • Gayatri Gauri January 17, 20101:08 pm

    The fact remains that it IS a man’s world.When it comes to just the act of making that film,you are nothing but a filmmaker.But when it comes to other aspects like selling,interacting with the team and the world at large,you are inevitably viewed as a woman(inferior by some,superior by some and equal by some) and you end up either reacting or ignoring(difficult,sigh).One might as well accept it and try making the best of the situation.a time will come when only the work will remain and speak for itself.

  • Vijayakrishnan.G January 17, 20104:13 pm

    Hi madam,

    I am Vijayakrishnan.G studying in Sree Narayana College Kollam, Kerala. More over that a die-hard fan of yours…..
    I have a little collection of your photos relating to IFFK 2008 & 2009. But i dont know your e-mail id. If you give me your e-mail id i will mail u all the photos.


  • sn January 17, 20104:21 pm

    There is a lot of unwanted attention women have to live with in kerala. It is a fact that often ‘you’ attract attention rather than your work. When one lives here, grows up here one manages to grow some strange defenses as well! i’ve had malayali friends who’ve grown up and lived mostly outside the state dealing with all sorts of issues about being woman while trying to contribute in meaningful ways. men have said things as stupid as ‘your body language was so open, so we thought…’ to a totally clueless individual. some have packed and left saying its impossible! it is a hard fact- there is a lot of perversion around, subtle, often not clearly visible- but it is something women deal with every day. i myself, when i come back to kerala after something like a month of being away elsewhere, i can FEEL this invisible wall around me come back up. i dont feel free to walk, talk, dress, the way i’d like to because i dont like the attention, the way people look!

    it is not that the malayali woman is only good in the kitchen. i recently read an interview of an intellectual malayali filmmaker, man of course, saying he had lots of women friends with who he loves having intellectual discussions. when asked about his wife, he also happily said that he only tells her what she needs to know and thats how things are!!

    its a huge thing when a woman comes out into the open and achieves something. (of course given that she has a supportive family). but she does have this huge obstacle of a typical malayali male mindset to deal with outside the home. she could be a winner there but will have a number of stories to tell.

    the change has to come at the most fundamental level – how we think, how we teach boys to think. when respect for the opposite sex comes as naturally as respect for oneself, we might begin to see it. i don’t think our women dont come out because they aren’t empowered or anything, but they deserve a workplace, a society that respects their dignity. even when no one’s watching.

  • Jayakrishnan January 17, 20107:54 pm

    @Anjali Thanks! Pleasantly surprised to see the blog post and interesting discussion as reply to an innocuous comment. The comment from the delegate I mentioned was just something that caught my ears during the daily IFFK report on one of the news channels.

    Parts of the article http://tehelka.com/story_main43.asp?filename=hub071109the_double.asp are relevant to the discussion here. Again no answers. Only more questions.

    • Jayakrishnan February 6, 20108:55 am

      By the way.. I am sorry to let you know that displaying my email id online did not help. My email account has started receiving a lot of spam suddenly. But it does not matter much to me since I do not use that id too often.

  • Indhu January 18, 20109:38 am

    nowdays,ther r lots of gals who is intrstd to wrk in films,spcly behind the camera..
    In this Consrvatve socty,it is difficult to make a sml start..
    anjali mam,i am a film stndt,i strugld a lot ,to convnce the pepole around me to join for a film course..not yet strtd my carr in film,but hoping…to overcum the everthing,i hav dat passion to film…
    i know the difficultes of lot of gals who’s talntd but cudnt do anythin coz of our unwritten socty rules..
    To be frank,u r inspring us lot..lot and lot..!
    when everybody ask,”wat can u do in films,how a wmn can direct a movie,is it possible..??” thes questns we r facing everyday…!

    we simply answr, ur name…Anjali Menon…
    grt confidnce now!
    Indhu Nampoothiri.

  • Pyari January 18, 201011:51 am

    I understand this thought better. Recently, I got into a discussion with a blogger on a similar topic. (As far as I know, you cannot read Malayalam and hence not quoting the blog post here.) I started my comment saying, I consider this topic which leads to gender discrimination as an outdated topic. I seconded my own thought saying that today’s society treats women equally and with respect and that they also have the required freedom to achieve what they want in life. But, I finally decided to withdraw my statements ‘coz I suddenly realised that the other blogger is putting across his points considering a very backward society where women still face problems.

    As Shyla Thomas said, people like you who have already proved can be a great source of inspiration for women who are still suffering just because of the fact that “she is a woman.”.

    When people like you and me or many of the bloggers here talk, they talk about a very sophisticated Indian society. But there is a backward Indian society also where women are still treated poorly.

    Forget India, even if it is outside, when they point at a “succeful woman”, people are just refering to a “suffering society of women”, to whom the succesful one has to set an example. It is as simple as, the world still looks Obama as Black. It is not that we look down upon him or we see him differently. It is just that we look forward to him to set the right example to the discriminated race.

    When things have changed so much, I am sure that very soon we would see a world where there is not much of gender discrimination or I would like to call it a gender distinction.

    Let “us” (man and woman, the people) work towards it.

  • Amrita January 18, 201011:59 am

    First of all Congratulations on your Awards! isn’t it nice to be standing shoulder to shoulder with those whom you admired and always wanted to be like. I am really proud of you.
    hmm Why there are few woman filmmakers? I feel and strongly think that it is a personal issue. Today woman can and have reached the skies. There are equal opportunities for both the genders. However, the numbers for successful woman are less. And it all is due to the personal choices we as woman take in our day to day lives. Yes its like that situation when Neo had to choose between the red and the blue pill. Everyday we make a choice between living a life as we are, a life with loved ones, with all the comfort, the mundane, a life of things we believe we know we want to have or a life that is unknown which puts everything at stake. What are we comfortable with? Only a few dare to step into the unknown and fight for fulfilling their dreams.
    It is time for us to be the change……

  • Vineeth January 18, 20104:46 pm

    Sure, you have made your mark with 2 films. But don’t you find it a bit bored to remain as an arthouse filmmaker. I mean you must break the mould and enter to commercial cinema too. Especially the type of Malayalam movies that get released now a days. From an industry that was known for making meangingful cinemas, we have become something of a shadow of the older times.
    An industry that thrives on overaged superstars and refuses to make others stars, I don’t think there is much scope for growth.

    At the same time, tamil industry has changed from being just a remake market to thoughtful cinema market….
    Atleast we do have a greater potential than them yet..

  • anishthomas January 18, 20104:49 pm

    First of all few suggestion to make your blog more appealing
    1.Choose a better theme instead of current one (black backgroud is really pain for the eyes)
    2.Increase the font size

    @women directors——-As you said , it is not a case in kerala but also in india and world.Few peoples like Mira nair,deepa mehta and a very few in hollywood is an exception(Tanuj chandra is strictly okay or below average)
    May be one reason is filim field are dominated by male for a long time..or i don’t know….
    Probably we need more classs directors like mira nair, deepa mehta as well as mass directors.If one or 2 can make a diffrence(or can successfull), then I’m sure lot of others also will be motivated to take up this profession….Between good luck to you lady

  • bindu Amat January 18, 20108:42 pm

    Reading and teaching literature for some years now, I have often had to ponder over this debate. You scan the poetry or the fiction of any language, you’ll have the presence of women there(provided, of course, that they do get published. Dont we know of countless who have been totally silenced, or those who had to adopt male pen names to get published?!) But look at the genre of drama- you see a conspicuous absence of women. Either as playwrights, or directors, as actors(remember young boys acting female roles in Shakespearean theatre) or even as protagonists! (The focus has always been on the conflicts in the hero’s mind, as if the woman has no mind for a conflict to take shape in it!) well, drama is probably the most social of the genres of literature, and that is where the women are most absent. I dare say film occupies more or less the same stature, and here again we have women pushed to the backseat, (or taking the backseat?) But we cant be blind to the emergence of a strong feminist theatre now. And it is probably because drama is the most social of all genres that these playwrights and directors have chosen this very genre to make the most revolutionary and notable interventions. And given the similar social nature of the genre of film, I can foresee a much stronger female presence in the coming years.
    The introduction of film in the curriculum – systematic courses in film making, cinematography, film studies, etc – should further open more doorways to women. Women are trained in most societies to excel along lines already drawn – and not so much to draw new lines. The uncertainty and risk involved in pioneering one’s way into cinema was surely not a safe option, and women have naturally been hesitant. But once it becomes a codified branch of study like any other discipline, be it medicine or technology, there will be a distinct difference in the gender disparity seen in the field.
    And then how can we not point out the many expectations women are saddled with? This may sound cliched, but it nevertheless rings true. A man out to excel in his field is celebrated and honoured; a woman who is fired up with the same zeal will have a volley of questions fired back at her – but what about kids, family, home?!! We have to admit the fact that the balancing act is surely a more challenging one for women. The ones who have excelled inspite of all odds, therefore, are to be doubly congratulated.

  • Geethu mohandas January 19, 201010:23 am

    The male dominates cinema. As men formulate the rules of the game and define the standards of all evaluations. Most of it is organized by male norms and their values.The decission making priorities to enter into cinema also differs from male to female, determined by their interests, working patterns and background where women tend to give priorities to societal concerns The working pattern is also male dominated, often characterized by lack of supportive structures for working mothers and the work load women face when trying to balance the family life with the demands of this work Also the social economic status of the women has a direct influence on their participation in cinema.In this case women have to juggle between three jobs, the productive, reproductive as well as the social demands living in the said society. As a three full time job. Traditions continue to emphasize the primary role of women as a mother and a house wife.The ideaological cultureal patterns has these pre determined roles for men and women. Having said this there are obviously few exceptions like the priviledged few like us but the majority is the said above.

  • Arjun Sathish January 19, 20101:53 pm

    madam, you are not just a film maker of passions but also a big intellect.. you made me to think. All them best madam.

  • Vinaya Varma Ullal January 21, 20102:07 pm

    Been reading ur blog. Hmmm… interesting. I personally feel we don’t have to prove anything to anyone but rselves. Just do what u do best.
    Reminded me of a song by Chaka Khan : A Woman in a Man’s
    It’s a losing game I play
    In a dog eat dog, show biz town
    I’ve got a dream of my own
    And I carry my own weight
    But still they try to drag me down

    I’m a woman in a man’s world
    I’m a woman in a man’s world

    So I’m fool enough to say
    That a woman’s place is in the home
    Working twice as hard
    For the same reward as any man, yeah

    For my very own
    It’ll make me strong if I don’t give in
    Cause the harder the fight
    Oh, the sweeter the prize I’m sure to win

  • Chithrabhanu P January 24, 201010:39 pm

    അഞ്ജലിച്ചേച്ചീ (അനുവാദമില്ലാതെയാണെങ്കിലും ഞാന്‍ അങ്ങനെ വിളിക്കുന്നു) we have discussed about the in security of a young women in the society (at IFFK) and how a girl is becoming restless even in sleep while traveling. There are social barriers for them to come out and perform in a job like cinema. It should be broken off. Even though there are many female shot film directors and film students, they are getting ignored by the industry. In other word they couldn’t come out to the public and show that the same thing (or better) is possible for women also; as you did. And see most of the malayalam films itself represents the women as a household being. (see my article on “ബ്ലസ്സിയുടെ സ്ത്രീകള്‍’ http://etapetalukal.blogspot.com/2009/09/blog-post.html)
    Any way you made a change and I’m sure that it will encourage many talents to the direction field. good luck.

  • SHAMEEM January 25, 201011:09 pm

    I have seen Kerala Cafe. I loved watching your “Happy Journey” along with “Bridge” & “Puram Kazchakal”. Hope to see you doing a full length feature film soon.

  • Kiran Tom Sajan January 28, 201011:22 am

    Hi Anjali ma’am. I was very impressed watching your Happy Journey in Kerala Cafe. It was one of best short films I have ever watched. I am student of Mass Communication in Chennai. I do independent short films too. I would like you to watch them and give me analysis. But I do not know whether I can post the links here.Anyways. Here are the links. Have a look if you have time.

    This one is on Democracy

    My Paper boat. I was an assistant to this film. It won the Best Film award by British Council International One-Minute to Save the world Contest. This film was also screened at the Copenhagen Climate Summit.

    I expect remarks from you. Hope you read this comment. 🙂
    My email id: tom.chand@gmail.com

      • Preeti Gopalkrishnan October 14, 20104:03 pm

        Dear Kiran, I really wich you had included some women while giving so many interpretations of Democracy! “Her voice” is just missing!

  • Jishnu January 28, 20106:12 pm

    Thank you for coming to IIT Madras or else I would have missed KC, HJ and the hope to see a few good Malayalam movies in future where the director do not sell her soul to audience/producers..
    Reg the problem of Malayalee women I could never understand why they give their life to stick to the homely and soft-spoken stereotype which does nothing but pander a few male chauvinistic malluboys..Malayalee women belong to the strange category – well educated but least daring..
    Thank you for being the exception and for pursuing the career you love..

  • Kiran Tom Sajan January 28, 20106:22 pm

    Hey thanks a lot for watching that. Do you mind giving me your mail id? I would like to discuss some movie-matters with you. 🙂

    Kiran Tom Sajan

  • ariyathe January 29, 20105:12 am

    It’s the way we look at our women in general. She is limited. She cannot walk out by herself. She cannot lead a life alone. She cannot lead. She cannot achieve anything other than her looks.
    And women filmmakers? woah, that’s like an oxymoron! ;]
    And anyone who dares disagree is a feminist, with a negative connotation of course.

    ;] It’s kind of sad. Our reflections.

  • gautham January 29, 201010:53 pm

    ur happy journey was excellent..and ur film proves that u r a talented film maker..its nice to see u,revathy mam all doing some beautiful films..we expect more and more great films from u!

  • Sarita February 10, 201011:13 am

    Why are there so few female film-makers in Kerala? Seems like this is a universal problem. Check out this article in the Guardian


  • Arun February 10, 20109:31 pm

    We are interested in making short films. We have heard that you are providing support for short movie makers. We want some advices with this regard specifically about the techinical side.
    My mail id is arunr6600@yahoo.com.
    How could we contact you to have a talk on this matter ?
    Thanks in advance…

  • retheeshblogs February 11, 20102:44 am

    Watched Kerala Cafe in San Fransisco recently.
    Kudos to Ranjith, and all directors who cooperated with this venture.

    And thank you for happy journey.
    I do not know if it is reading to many reviews, but couple of minutes into the plot, i was able to guess the climax(I’ve spoiled too many great movie watching experiences – Usual suspects is one such example)!!
    I wish i had not read the reviews, and not thought about what is in store!
    I am yet to see your “Manjadikuru” – and this time i am not reading reviews prior to watching the movies!!!

    What is your new project?

  • Arun February 19, 20101:36 pm


    we want to know about some technical requirements of short film making….If you are ready to help us , my mail id is

  • Ashique C Muhammed July 1, 20123:25 pm

    Dear Anjali,
    watching d nostalgic movie Manjadikkuru,thanjs a lot for give this…..
    Then watch Usthad Hotel,congrats for give this….
    Which s ur next project?

  • Anuja July 18, 20147:45 pm

    Hie Ma’am, I always wanted to be a filmmaker as I loved creative work but ended up being an engineer. But this childhood dream of mine I would like to make it a reality one day. I am a professional classical dancer and a fashion show choreographer and have done many shows even in NIFT where I was selected as the best choreographer. I have always loved doing creative work. I wish to join as an assistant director to you.

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