Juhi Chawla: Now, actresses are under more pressure to look perfect – Juhi Chawla, who is still remembered as the girl-next-door from films such as Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak and Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke, feels it’s a myth that the number of women-centric movies have increased. “The bulk of films are still either romcoms or hero-based,” she points out. Here, the actress, talks about what has changed for women in cinema, and what remains the same…
Since the time you worked till now, do you see any changes as far as women in cinema are concerned?
When I was working in the ’90s, there hardly used to be three or four ladies on the sets that included me, my hair dresser, my mom or an aunt, and maybe one other woman. Today, almost 40 to 50 per cent of the crew on sets comprise women. These are young people working in production, art, creative, in short, every other department. In that sense, the doors have opened and opportunities have increased.
What about the role of heroines on screen?
How has it changed, you tell me? If you are talking about films like Piku or Queen, there have been strong female-oriented films earlier, too. You are forgetting Shabana Azmi who became what she is because of the roles and films she did. Tabu did films that revolved around women. Mitaji (Vasisht) became known for Manthan. We are forgetting films like Mrityudand and Astitva. Even today, I feel the bulk of the films are romcoms or hero-based. Time and again, films with strong female protagonists come, but I have not seen the number going up. The last film, I think, was Mom. I haven’t seen it, but I believe it was women-centric. In fact, the pressures on actresses to look perfect is more now, they have to wear skimpy dresses and look glamourous all the time, thanks to social media. We had it more relaxed.
As far as women-centric films are concerned, I know this has been said before, but unless the audience goes to see them, they will not be made. Going to a nice theatre is expensive and audience wants to see big budget, glamourous films — they want entertainment. I think, like in London, there should be special theatres for alternative films or female-centric movies, because right now, such movies are either big hits, which is good, or they are pulled out of theatres within three days, if they don’t do well. They don’t get a chance to grow.
Talking about women-centric films, your Gulab Gang is completing four years…
Yes, I still remember when director Soumik Sen met me with the script, and said he has got something fantastic for me. When I read the entire script, I told him, ‘Are you joking? Why would I do a role like this where I am beaten at the end as I was playing the villain?’ So, they tried to justify why she was the way she was but that ruined the whole thing. So, we went back to the original and I did my part the way Soumik read it —strangely menacing and icy cool. I tried to do that and when I saw the final result, I was happy.
Do you feel women are more empowered now?
I don’t agree with this whole thing about empowering women. They are born empowered! Somebody has said that women are one half of the population and responsible for the other half. You can’t beat that. Somewhere we are thinking that only career women are doing something. But running a home is equally important, if not more. Bringing love and warmth to the home, which is often overlooked, is paramount to a happy family. I salute all those women. Also, working and running a home is a herculean task and my jaw drops when I see women doing that.