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We're Underestimating Audience by Labelling Films As Feminist, Women-centric: Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari

Image courtesy: Instagram

Image courtesy: Instagram

In an interview with us, director Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, who is currently gearing up for the release of Panga, argues that the films with male protagonists are never called "male-centric", because it is believed that theirs are simply just stories.

Shrishti Negi
  • Last Updated: January 23, 2020, 12:13 PM IST
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Director Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari wishes media would stop sticking her films with the "women-centric" label, because other than it being unfair, it narrows the people's support for the movie.

The director, who is currently gearing up for the release of Panga, argues that the films featuring male protagonists are never known as "male-centric", because it is believed that theirs are simply just stories.

"We should stop putting stories into women empowerment or women-centric films because we never do that for men. We never say male-centric or male empowerment film. So, we should stop doing that because we've been in a country where we have had the strongest writers as women, from Amrita Pritam to having Mother India and films like Ijaazat and Mirch Masala, which had strong female protagonists. But we never said that they were 'women-centric' films. They were just stories with strong female characters. In between, we got carried away and never went back to those kinds of movies. But now when we are coming back with strong stories, we say that it's women-centric," Ashwiny tells us.

Ashwiny also points out that tagging films as feminist or women-centric leads to their "compartmentalisation" into a single space.

"Ekta Kapoor is green-lighting the scripts left, right and centre and there are all kinds of script coming from her kitty. So, I'd say we have to really stop that because it so happened that we happened to be women and we spoke about a woman's story. I feel we give too much of importance to this now. The audience doesn't come to the theatres thinking this way. They just come to watch a film for a story. In the era of the internet, they sometimes come to see the work of a director or a music director. In fact, thanks to the audience, it's becoming more of a director's film like Hollywood," she says.

Kangana Ranaut and Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari on the sets of Panga.

"Yes, they do come for the actor also but if that would have been the only case then why so many films in the past few years with not-so-big actors had worked. So, the audience is willing to explore new ideas. We're underestimating them by putting a bracket that this is a women-centric film. Would you call The Post a women-centric film? It is a story about The Washington Post that has a woman protagonist. Panga is similar to that where I'm talking from all perspectives. That's why I earnestly tell media to not be writing that. Because we are compartmentalising this whole thing. The audience don't do that," adds Ashwiny.

The director, who has previously helmed critically-acclaimed films such as Nil Battey Sannata and Bareilly Ki Barfi, has teamed with actress Kangana Ranaut in Panga, which is about a mother giving her dreams a second chance.

The film also highlights the struggles of mothers who put their careers on hold or compromise with their dreams to embrace motherhood.

Ashwiny, the mother-of-two, says, "Even today, there are a whole lot of women who cannot go out and work. They have so many ambitions and it is a second chance for all of them also. But you need men to be equally supporting this thing. Having a child is a biological and a mindful decision of a man and a woman then why does it always become the woman's responsibility only? Also, I think pursuing dreams is not only going out and working, it can also be going to the gym and working out. Having a child is a joyous moment in any parents' lives then why does it become like a chore after a point of time? I feel urban women will still easily say, 'it will lead into divorce,' but that is just like two per cent of our society, but what about the rest?"

Kangana Ranaut and Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari on the sets of Panga.

The director says the mothers are constantly racked with guilt, feeling that their best isn't good enough, which needs to go away.

"Intrinsically, we're very guilt-conscious. Me being talking about a film like this and doing other stuff also, there are so many days when I've sent messages at home that "Sorry, just another 10 days and I'll be at home." I don't think so Nitesh (Tiwari) ever did that. But this attitude will only go away if we keep telling ourselves that it's fine and we don't have to feel guilty about going out with our friends and spending time with them and not checking our phones 10 times and calling home to know whether everything's okay."

Panga, also starring Richa Chadha, Neena Gupta and Jassie Gill, is scheduled to hit the theatres on January 24.

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