Reportedly, female representation in Indian film and television remains low

A landmark report led by Ormax Media and Film Companion and supported by Amazon Prime Video has revealed a miserable state of affairs in the representation of women on and off screen in India.

The report was produced in collaboration with the Producers Guild of India and Active Telugu Film Producers Guild, streamers Hoichoi, SonyLIV, Voot and ZEE5, and studios Clean Slate Filmz, Dharma Productions, Emmay Entertainment, Excel Entertainment, Purple Pebble Pictures, RSVP and Sikhya Entertainment created, analyzed 150 theatrical films, streaming films and series released in eight Indian languages ​​in 2021.

The main findings of the report entitled O Womaniya! 2022, include:

• Women are hardly represented behind the camera. Only 10% of head of department positions (HODs) in the key departments (production design, script, editing, direction and cinematography) are held by women. Of the 56 feature films analyzed in multiple languages, none was directed or edited by a woman. In media and entertainment companies, only 10% of senior management positions were held by women.

• Only 55% of films and series passed the Bechdel test. In promotional trailers, women had only 25% talktime, with 48 titles allocating 10 seconds or less to female characters.

• The percentage of female HODs doubled when a woman was responsible for approving a series or film. Similarly, a higher percentage of films passed the Bechdel test (68%) and women had longer trailer talk time (35%) when the title was commissioned by a woman.

• Streaming movies and series outperformed theatrical releases on all parameters, indicating the ongoing transformation the sector is embarking on in terms of female representation on and off screen. The representation of female HODs in streaming films and series was five times higher than in theatrical releases. Likewise, 64% of streaming series and 55% of streaming movies passed the Bechdel test, while more than half of theatrical films failed. Likewise, streaming movies and series provided more speaking time for female characters in trailers and led theatrical releases by 10 percentage points and 14 percentage points, respectively.

Shailesh Kapoor, Founder and CEO of Ormax Media said: “While it is no surprise that female representation in mainstream entertainment is low, the level of bias, such as B. 10:90 on some key parameters, can be a wake-up call. While streaming titles, particularly series, are more female-friendly in how they are presented on and off the screen, theatrical films continue to fare very poorly and have not shown any positive growth at all since the last report, which covered published content in 2019 and 2020. We hope that this report serves as a starting point for the industry to come together and discuss ways to address the apparent imbalance.”

Anupama Chopra, a former diversity Contributor, Founder and Editor of Film Companion, said: “Data is essential to understand how drastically the gender balance is skewed in the Indian film industry. O Womaniya! offers us the starting point for discussions and debates. We will continue to build on that momentum and hopefully lead the way for change.”

Aparna Purohit, Head of India Originals, Amazon Prime Video, added: “Streaming has given more female storytellers a voice, leading to an increase in stories driven by empowered female characters. At Prime Video, we launched an inclusion policy playbook that institutionalized specific policies to ensure only women are represented on and off screen. These range from the obligatory representation of women in the writers’ rooms to the evaluation of each script according to certain parameters. I am sure streaming will continue to advance the leadership in diversity, equity and inclusivity in Indian entertainment.”

The report was also supported by actress Vidya Balan, who has starred in female-led stories in theatrical and streaming films such as The Dirty Picture, Kahaani, Tumhari Sulu, Shakuntala Devi, Sherni, and Jalsa”.

Balan said: “The report shows that we still have a lot to do. And that can only happen if we have more women in boardrooms and drive change right at the heart of decision-making. As women actresses in positions of influence, we need to push for more female representation behind the camera in order to have more sensitive, authentic and relatable representation in front of it as well.”

Sunitha Rangaswami, an independent consultant on gender and women’s economic empowerment, advised on making India’s entertainment industry more inclusive for women. Reportedly, female representation in Indian film and television remains low

Charles Jones

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