“The organised attack [I faced after calling out the misogyny in Mammootty's movie Kasaba] was not directed at me, the individual. It was at me, the woman, who had a voice—who spoke up and stated a fact,” said actress Parvathy Thiruvoth at the Women in Cinema Collective's conversation with veteran British feminist film theorist Professor Laura Mulvey. The event was part of the international conference, (Re)Negotiating the Spectacle: Gender, Body and Discourse in Films, held at Sacred Heart College, Kochi.
The Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) was started in 2017 as a collective of 18 women from the Malayalam film industry, after an actress was sexually assaulted in a moving vehicle in Kochi, in February 2017. “After the collective came together, the first thing we did, or we recognised, was that there is absolutely no data on women working in cinema in Kerala,” said Beena Paul, award-winning film editor and active member of the WCC. “We petitioned the Kerala chief minister to set up a commission to enquire the status of women working in the film industry. That enquiry has just been completed and the report submitted. The report is apparently very shocking. Because it eludes to the casting couch…. It is almost like there is lot of dirty linen that will probably be hung out if that report becomes very public.”
Parvathy added that after she openly criticised Kasaba, women from different walks of life started reaching out to her saying how they have faced misogyny. “[They were] speaking up for themselves, to have a balanced narrative in the popular culture,” she said. “Yes, it [social reality] is not very optimistic. Regardless, we should just use the chaos. I feel that is the only option, because the other option is to be silent and to live without dignity.”
Mulvey expressed her shock on hearing the various accounts of the WCC members. Currently a professor of film and media studies at University of London, Mulvey is best known for her essay, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, published in 1975 in the influential British film theory journal Screen. Notably, she coined term “Male gaze” into the academic lexicon. Her essay was first of its kind that saw an intersection of film theory, psychoanalysis and ideas of feminism.
“My presence here is partly to reproach myself on how little one knows of the rest of the world,” said Mulvey. “And, how important communication is, and how important dialogue between women across the world is, in particularly at times like these. I feel this is not just a struggle for women’s voices to be heard in the industry, but women’s voices being heard in the society, in order to improve the society as such.”