Report finds only 10% women bosses in Indian films and series, Vidya Balan reacts

Published on Aug 04, 2022 02:47 PM IST

O Womaniya! 2022, a report by Ormax Media, has painted a sorry picture of women representation in Indian entertainment.

Shefali Shah and Vidya Balan in Jalsa, one of the few films to pass the Bechdel Test.
Shefali Shah and Vidya Balan in Jalsa, one of the few films to pass the Bechdel Test.

Media consulting firm Ormax Media on Thursday released O Womaniya! 2022, a report on female representation in Indian entertainment. The report, releases in association with Film Companion and streaming platform Amazon Prime Video, analysed theatrical films, streaming films and series released in 2021 and found that only 10% of senior leadership roles in industry bodies were held by women, leading to “a cascading effect on inclusivity through the production and execution chain”. Also read: Richa Chadha says women technicians facing sexism on film sets is 'default setting'

The report analysed over 150 films and series across eight Indian languages-- Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Punjabi, Bengali and Gujarati. All these were titles that released in 2021. The report also received collaboration from multiple entities within the media and entertainment industry, including industry bodies like the Producers Guild of India and Active Telugu Film Producers Guild, streaming services like hoichoi, SonyLIV, Voot and ZEE5, along with film leading film studios like Clean Slate Filmz, Dharma Productions, Emmay Entertainment, Excel Entertainment, Purple Pebble Pictures, RSVP and Sikhya Entertainment.

The findings of the report paint a sorry picture of female representation in the Indian entertainment scene. Only 10% head of department positions across divisions like production design, writing, editing, direction and cinematography are held by women. Out of the 56 theatrical films analyzed across languages, not even one was directed or edited by a woman. This meant that the content produced by these media houses also fails the representation test. The report found that women had only 25% talk time with 48 titles even allocating 10 seconds or less to female characters. Interestingly, women had a higher talk time (35%) in titles commissioned by women.

The report also analysed the titles on the basis of the Bechdel Test. Created by and named after cartoonist Alison Bechdel, the test is a measure of representation of women in fiction. It analyses whether any title features at least two women talking to each other about something other than a man. The report found that only 55% of the films and series analysed passed the test. As per the report, “the percentage of female HODs doubled when a woman green lit a series or a film. Similarly, a higher percentage of films (68%) commissioned by women passed the Bechdel Test.”

One of the most striking findings of the report is that while theatrical films lag behind in providing representation to women, streaming films and series performed much better. Representation of female HODs in streaming films and series was five times higher than theatrical films, found the report. Similarly, 64% of streaming series and 55% of streaming films passed the Bechdel Test, much higher numbers than theatrical films. Streaming films and series also provided more talk time to female characters in trailers.

Speaking about the findings, Shailesh Kapoor, Founder-CEO, Ormax Media, said, “While it’s no surprise that female representation in mainstream entertainment is low, the degree of skew, such as 10:90 on some key parameters, should be a wake-up call. While streaming titles, especially series, are more women-inclusive in on and off-screen representation, theatrical films continue to perform very poorly, and in fact, have shown no positive growth at all since the previous report, which covered content released in 2019 & 2020. We hope that this report serves as a starting point for the industry to come together and discuss ways to address the evident imbalance.”

O Womaniya! 2022 was also supported by actor Vidya Balan, who has carved a niche for herslelf headlining several successful women-led films over the years, including Dirty Picture, Kahaani, Shakuntala Devi, Sherni, Jalsa, and more. Reacting to the findings shared in the report, Vidya said, “As an actor, I have noticed the change in female representation in films in the last decade and a half. While this change has been underway for a while, it’s now become stronger with streaming services that have introduced the much-needed diversity in storytelling and on sets. However, the report indicates that we still have a lot of ground to cover. And this can only happen when we have more women in the boardrooms, prompting change right at the heart of decision-making.”

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    Abhimanyu Mathur is an entertainment journalist with Hindustan Times. He writes about cinema, TV, and OTT, churning out interviews, reviews, and good old news stories.

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