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#IShapeMyWorld: Filmmaker Zoya Akhtar On Smashing Sexism In Indian Cinema

KanupriyaKanupriya  |  Jul 26, 2021
#IShapeMyWorld: Filmmaker Zoya Akhtar On Smashing Sexism In Indian Cinema

It was in 2009 when we saw Vikram reaching a dark room full of actors. Actors from all over the country, desperate to make it big in the Indian film industry. Some were rehearsing their dialogues while others were sizing up their competition. Shankar Mahadevan’s voice singing, Sapnon Se Bhare Naina was telling us exactly what each one of them were going through on the inside. We heard an actor pleading for a second chance at his audition. In another scene, we saw Vikram looking at himself in the mirror- that’s when his eyes revealed his fear, his vulnerability, and his doubts.

Luck By Chance released more than a decade ago, but one cannot watch this song comfortably even today. It feels too real, too personal. It’s probably the only mainstream Hindi movie to talk about nepotism in the film industry. And, that’s bold. But then again, there’s hardly anything that’s not bold about Zoya Akhtar’s movies.

From talking about hidden secrets that the Indian elite want to keep hush-hush to addressing the stark class difference that plagues our society, Zoya has covered it all. Her movies and shows are entertaining and unnerving at the same time. They will make you laugh, but also hit you hard. And if you think that she had it easy because of her family, then boy, you’re in for a big surprise. While her thought-provoking films speak for her, she had to work through a lot of blatant sexism before being recognised as the trailblazer she is.

And, it’s her genius understanding of cinema and addressing urban issues with nuance that Levi’s® is celebrating with their #IShapeMyWorld campaign. The brand kicked open the 7th season on International Women’s Day 2021. Zoya, as a part of the campaign, is one of the 7 fearless and powerful women who are constantly challenging what society expects from them. She’s shaping the world on her own terms and here’s everything you need to know about it.

On Making Movies That Challenge Normalised Social Issues

“If people think of my name in the next thirty years, I would like them to remember my body of work. That’s all I need,” says Zoya. Given the phenomenal movies and shows that the director has given us over the years, it wouldn’t be hard at all. We’re talking about movies like Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara that are considered one of the finest movies of the Hindi cinema. Her web series, Made In Heaven, is one of the most hard-hitting shows you will ever see. And, Gully Boy was selected as India’s official entry at the 92nd Academy Awards. These are just some of the masterpieces that Zoya has come up with in the past years and we cannot wait to see what the future holds.

Her content is the whole package with relevant and entertaining angles that can be enjoyed by everyone alike. While talking about it, she added, “My job is not specific to males or females. You’re unique. Your gaze, your perspective are unique. So, just be confident about it because there’s nobody on this planet that’s you.”

Well, that’s exactly why we have been loving all her shows and movies. They explore a wide range of topics and have a way of really making you think and feel.

On Sexism In The Indian Film Industry

In her interview for the #IShapeMyWorld campaign, Zoya reveals that despite coming from an illustrious family in Bollywood, she faced sexism in the industry. “Growing up, my brother and I were treated on par. You’re as entitled as the boys are because you’ve been given that respect. But, there is a certain amount of sexism that does exist in our society.”

While sharing an anecdote from the shooting of her first film, she said that there were instances when her authority was being questioned. A technician used to follow up with Farhan Akhtar post every shot instead of Zoya, the director of the movie. She took him aside and explained that if he was not comfortable working with her, then they’d not be able to collaborate further. “You need to understand that I’m the director and we need to work together. And sadly, if that’s the problem then we won’t be able to collaborate,” she said to the person in question. To which, he replied that Zoya was like his sister and she was getting him all wrong. “I’m not your sister, I’m your director,” she said.

On Being Your Own Boss

Not a lot of people know, but Zoya had refused to direct a blockbuster movie offered to her by a famous actor before her directorial debut. She did it on the grounds that she wanted her first film to be about her and not about the actor. During the interview, she talked about what it takes for her to feel confident and never let people make her feel any lesser for being a woman.

She said, “If you’re actually your own enemy, if you, yourself are on the backfoot because of your gender, then you’re already starting at a disadvantage.”

“You’re always judged if you’re a woman and you’re in control. In the sense, she is rambling, she is bossy. I am not bossy; I am the boss. It is as simple as that,” she further added.

Well, that’s Zoya Akhtar for you, a force to be reckoned with in the Hindi film industry. Stay tuned for the latest episode of #IShapeMyWorld. 

This is a sponsored article for Levi’s®. 

Featured Image Courtesy: Levi’s®