The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Screen queens open up role-model debate

New Delhi, April 6: This is all about sirens on the screen — big and small (screens that is).

It’s a toss-up between the treacly sweet, platitude-spouting and moralising leading ladies like Tulsi and Parvati of Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki on television and Bipasha Basu of Jism on the big screen.

So, which would you choose of these' That’s just the sort of stark question that will come up for debate at a seminar on “Women, Cinema and Society” being organised here next week by the Ficci Ladies Organisation.

The seminar, which will have two sessions, will also focus on the curious dichotomy within the audience between the big and the small screens. The couch potatoes seem more receptive to women-centric serials but the matinee marquees feature the macho heroes and quail at the thought of a woman as the central character in the film. Not that it’s not been done, but they have routinely bombed at the box office.

The seminar will also debate why women in TV serials are paid more than the male actors while in films it’s just the other way round. And why there can’t be equitableness in the payouts between the heroes and their leading ladies.

Well-known media personalities like Jaya Bachchan, Deepti Naval, Neena Gupta, Vyjayantimala Bali, Suhasini Maniratnam, Tanuja Chandra, Mahesh Bhatt and Shashi Kapoor will grapple with these and other women-related issues.

Ficci Ladies’ Organisation president Surekha Kothari said: “These days, commercial cinema means films that have absolutely no theme. The macho-hero concept of making a hit movie just nixes the possibility of having entertaining scripts where people can carry a message home.”

“There has to be a fine balance between the various facets of women’s conduct. How many people can really accept women in non-conventional or aggressive roles'” she asked.

She, however, admitted that the commercial aspect of globalisation is hitting India as well.

“Women have from the earlier times become more enterpreneurial in nature and are gearing up with a conscious effort to make their own mark. This has to some extent changed the outlook of men.”

Kothari said: “There is a lot of gender bias in the entertainment industry. A maker of a women-oriented film may find the financier but will be hard put to arrange for its marketing or distribution because the channels through which they have to go are dominated by men.”

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