In an industry where women are mostly used for "decoration" but where "women power is coming at full force", internationally-known Indian independent filmmaker Pan Nalin has explored "firebrand women" in his new "Angry Indian Goddesses" venture.
Popular for his 2001 spiritual-love story "Samsara" and the 2006 film "Valley of Flowers", Nalin's "Angry Indian Goddesses" is an all-out female buddy film.
"Since many years, I've been longing to do a film with firebrand Indian women in lead roles, purely out of rebel spirit because shockingly 96 percent of women's roles in Bollywood are only for decoration, or being a lover (means being sexy), or playing a mother, or sister whose "izzat" (respect), the hero or big brother must protect.
"If none of that, then she is the ultimate item girl," Nalin told IANS in an email interview from China, where he's on a work-related trip.
The director, who has been "pitching Indian women-centric films" since long, says he wrote "powerful scripts with powerful women in lead roles", but hardly found any support back then.
"Long before 'Kahaani' and 'Queen', I did my round with powerful scripts with powerful women in lead roles, but not a single producer came forward. But today, Indian audience has woken up to good stories and great content. So, yes, we can say that it's my first Hindi movie. Producer Gaurav Dhingra of Jungle Book Entertainment made 'Angry Indian Goddesses' possible," he added.
Amid the changing landscape in modern Hindi film industry, where women-centric films like "Kahaani", "Queen" and "Mardaani" have enthralled audiences, Nalin is "thrilled" and admires talented actresses like Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra, who can "carry an entire film far better than any male stars".
"The biggest change that I discovered is, in general, struggling newcomer girls are far more talented than the boys; those girls can act, dance, sing, write, design, travel. Meanwhile often the boys do not go beyond their bodies.
"So, women power is coming at full force; and we do need that point of view. Sometimes, I feel a woman should have made 'Angry Indian Goddesses'," he said.
Although the internationally acclaimed filmmaker is widely renowned for his offbeat and unorthodox films, he says genres and labels do not interest him at all.
"Personally, I have never differentiated between Bollywood, Hollywood, art house. These labels do not interest me at all. Deep in my heart, I am a storyteller.
"When I made 'Samsara' and 'Valley of Flowers', I had a strong desire to tell those stories. I made them the way I wanted. In some countries they are considered 'mainstream,' in others 'art house' or some classify as 'cult movies'.
"Somehow those films became global success; I remained surprised till today the way those films travelled, the way they are being liked and loved all over the world," he said.
The director also believes that since India is evolving "faster than any other country", Bollywood must also adapt to the changing times.
"Entertainment must evolve with society and culture. That's the order of things. India is evolving faster than any other country. Add to that internet and smartphones... it will totally change how the stories are being told. So the way we consume movies is changing and will continue to change," he added.
"Angry Indian Goddesses", that marks Nalin's debut in mainstream Bollywood, boasts of a line-up that includes Sandhya Mridul, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Sarah-Jane Dias, Anushka Manchanda, Amrit Maghera, Rajshri Deshpande and Pavleen Gujral.
The film will release in early 2016.
(Ankit Sinha can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)