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Woman Actors Need To Stand Up For Pay Parity, says Kitty Koo, Director, New York Film Academy, Mumbai Campus

Women have cut across barriers through sheer determination and will; and films have contributed a lot towards this change in mindset, says Kitty Koo, Director, New York Film Academy, Mumbai Campus

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Women's empowerment has become an important topic of discussion with rising economies and development. Kitty Koo, Director, New York Film Academy, Mumbai Campus talks to BW Businessworld about encouraging women empowerment through cinema. Edited Excerpts:

Films as a tool of Women Empowerment. What is your idea? Do films have any role to play in bringing gender equality in the society?

I personally feel films have played a significant role in bringing about a change and breaking the stereotype image of women in the society. Film is a medium that helps weave stories and portray characters that one can relate to in real life. Today, women are no longer just arm candies. They emote powerful roles and evoke a sense of pride in the characters they don. The films bring out the core of woman which is much stronger, ambitious and independent in real life.

Hollywood or Indian Film Industry – films projecting strong women – is not new. But does it bring any social impact? For example, India had films like ‘Mother India’ even in 50’s but we are still struggling with women empowerment. So how impactful is a film in terms of empowering women or say, effectively propagating the message of women empowerment?

I think we should not be looking back, but ahead. Women have come a long way since the 50s. They have cut across barriers through sheer determination and will. And I should say that films have contributed a lot towards this change in mindset. Sensitive portrayal of women centric characters have helped the society think differently. From men donning women characters to women playing protagonist roles, it is indeed a long journey for women. Such powerful roles have influenced and have empowered the normal woman to break the norm and create an identity of her.

Gender pay has been much of an issue highlighted recently. What is the pay gap like in the Indian subcontinent compared to the West? What steps can help curb it.

Gender inequality in pay is universal and is not exclusive to the film industry. The gap is significant in certain countries and in some it is much less. This is recognized across all industries and is changing. Though the effect would take some time for the people to really close this gender bias gap, it is up to the woman actors to stand up for what is due to them.

Indian film industry has seen female directors like Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti come up, but still not a lot are coming. Why? Are the producers hesitant to put their money on female directors?

Honestly speaking there are more Indian female directors in India than you would like to admit. Woman directors such as Fatima Begum, Mira Nair, Deepa Mehta, Farah Khan, Gauri Shinde (NYFA Alumni), Konkona Sen Sharma, Gurinder Chadha , Kiran Rao, Sonam Kapoor, Leena Yadav, Ekta Kapoor, Aashrita Kamath ( Art Director of Avatar 2), Bhanumathi Ramakrishna (Laila) have all made successful movies and have contributed a lot towards growth of woman directors in both Bollywood and Hollywood. Here I am not counting the woman DOP’s who play a significant role in the Indian film industry. Names such as Priya Seth, Deepti Gupta are names to reckon with and spell the success of woman in this industry that is predominantly male.

Women in tech are also numbered. What major roles do women play behind the screen, in VFX and Graphic Designing?

Technology is not gender bias. Women in technology are a force to reckon with. If you look around it is woman who are ruling the world of technology. For the fifth consecutive year, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has been named the most powerful woman in technology, followed by YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, HP CEO Meg Whitman, Apple Senior VP Angela Ahrendts, Oracle co-CEO Safra Cat, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer.

There are tremendous opportunities for woman to work behind the scene such as animators whose work has influenced the world of animation since its inception. India female animator Gayatri Rao pioneered stylized animation commercials in India and she is a phenomenon in her own sense.

Scripts are penned by talented screenwriters such as Shonali Bose, Aparna Zen, Reema Kagti, Ajita Suchitra Veera and Nandita Das.

Women in the film industry have made significant inroads in the last decade. At New York Film Academy we have witnessed many girl students study Screenwriting, Cinematography, Photography, Animation, Game Design, Documentary, Broadcast Journalism, Digital Editing, Producing, Graphic Designs beside Acting or filmmaking. I can say with a sense of pride and conviction that women are on the rise!! Here’s more to woman power.