These 20 Women Are The REAL Heroes of Bollywood!

These 20 Women Are The REAL Heroes of Bollywood!

Growing up in a Bollywood-obsessed country has taught me a lot about the celebrities which we idolize today. We're so star-struck by their professionalism and charisma that we invest a good amount of time getting to know all the nitty-gritty deets of their lives. Today, Bollywood is working towards building a community where women and men are equal professionals, it wasn't the same story a decade ago. Bollywood has been a male-dominated industry with a handful of women working behind the scenes. There's a good chance that you may have seen their work in Indian cinema, but not recognised them as leaders of their craft. To highlight their achievements, Authors, Gayatri Rangachari Shah and Mallika Kapur, have put together a book called the Changemakers: 20 Women Transforming Bollywood Behind the Scenes. The book contains the profiles and achievements of 20 women who've made a name for themselves in Bollywood and in India. Who are they, you ask? You're about to find out!


1. Charu Khurana won the right for women to work as make-up artists in Bollywood - a right they were denied by a trade union for six decades. 

2. Priya Seth is a Director of Photography on commercial blockbusters.

3. Stylist, Anaita Shroff Adajania, changed the way celebrities style their looks. 

4. Geeta Tandon overcame years of sexual abuse to become one of the few women stunt artists in the industry. 

5 Anupama Chopra redefined film journalism. 

6. Kiran Rao resurrected a languishing film festival and turned the spotlight on indie cinema. 

7. Gauri Shinde used her films to place female characters centre stage. 

8. Juhi Chaturvedi writes screenplays that make uncomfortable subjects like sperm donation national conversation.

9. Anvita Dutt Guptan conjures up haunting lyrics.

10. Geeta Kapur puts the oomph in our dance moves. 

11. Shubha Ramachandran ensures our movies are seamless. 

12. Amrita Mahal Nakai’s beautiful sets transport us to another world. 

13. Deepa Bhatia toils silently, skillfully stitching stories together.

14. Amrita Pandey helps run a global studio and takes Hindi films overseas.

15. Shikha Kapur’s marketing strategies send us rushing to buy a theatre ticket.

16. Shanoo Sharma's casting gives films authenticity. 

17. Guneet Monga's productions bridge the gap between East and West.

18. Rohini Iyer is the ultimate reputation manager, the go-to publicist for Bollywood A-listers.

19. Hetal Dedhia’s lighting is mesmerizing.

20. Sneha Khanwalkar introduced India to a fresh genre of music, to a sound the country had not heard before.

We touched base with the author of the book, Gayatri Rangachari Shah, sometime last week and she pointed some interesting facts. Get readin' already!


1. What inspired you to write this book?

"Going back in time, Mallika and I have always been interested in studying gender in a rapidly transforming society such as India. However, after the gang rape that happened in Delhi 2012, the whole national conversation began to shift. It's not that women's issues were not being reported before, but this incident felt like a wake-up call for the whole nation and it was after that incident, Mallika and I, did a lot reporting on subjects like gender and violence. In fact, she and I go back 20 years. We met at graduate school in Columbia and we always wanted to do a project together, but we couldn't figure out which one, because we belonged to different professions. Bollywood was the first thing that came to mind because we both happen to live in Bombay. It's an Industry we're both familiar with and have reported on over the last decade. However, what we wanted to do was not report about the movie stars, but wanted to talk about the women who worked behind the scenes. In fact, during our interviews with the stars, we'd always spot these women on set and often wonder, "what are they doing?" "Who are they?" "How did they get here?".

When we were growing up 20 years ago, Bollywood wasn't the industry that women were being drawn to and wasn't considered to be a serious profession, but yet, when we would be on set, we would notice women doing interesting technical things or around their art and craft on set behind the camera.

And then, we thought to ourselves, why don't we know their stories? How come there are no magazines or newspapers covering their lives? That's when we decided why don't we look at this in a deeper way and see if these are the women we want to write about. As we started digging deeper, we found so much talent and realised these women are the role models of tomorrow. People who have a slightly creative dent, who are interested in the movies, but don't want to be movie stars, all their career paths are inspirational to anyone who wants to join the business."

2. Why did you decide to name your book Changemakers?

"The reason we chose that name was that these 20 women mentioned in the book are agents of change." 

3. How do you think we (women) as a unit can bring about change in India and Bollywood?

"First of all, it's not only women, men AND women also need to work together. It's not like 50% of the country is working and living in isolation. We have husbands, brothers, friends, colleagues in our lives. Each of us needs male companions and mentors to support the dreams of women and society. Both genders need to work together to bring about change in the country and the industry."

4. What's your favourite under-appreciated novel?

"A night in Bombay. It was a gem of a novel about a Bombay from the 1930s as it evokes a time that no longer exists. It made an enjoyable read during my Diwali break."   

5. A thing about Bollywood you admire?

"I admire the creativity, professionalism and excitement that's in the industry. The energy on the sets is infectious!" 

6. If your life had a background score, what would it be? 

"A lovely day by Bill Withers." 

Tempted to pick a copy up for yourself now? Great! You can buy it here. Happy Reading!

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