Art & Entertainment

Tanuja Chandra: In Our Country, Women Are Still Considered They Are Not Equal To Men

Director Tanuja Chandra opened up about her docu-series 'Wedding.Con' that released recently on Amazon Prime Video, the dearth of women filmmakers and writers in the industry and more.

Tanuja Chandra

'Wedding.Con', which is a docu-series released on Prime Video on December 29. Director Tanuja Chandra showed us the horrifying incidents of women who got conned on matrimonial sites. Tanuja who is known for movies like 'Dushman', 'Sangharsh' 'Sur' and 'Qarib Qarib Singlle' among others is no stranger to documentaries. In 2019, she directed the documentary 'Aunty Sudha Aunty Radha' which was critically acclaimed. In an interview with Outlook India, Chandra revealed that she was shocked when she heard about these frauds as she wasn't aware of such things happening in our society. She feels privileged to have brought to light such ordeals experienced by women who fell victim to the matrimonial scams. 

Here are the excerpts from Tanuja Chandra's interview:

Why did you choose this subject for your docu-series?

It started with BBC Studios approaching me for the subject. I wasn't aware of such things happening and it was shocking to me. I met these women who courageously agreed to speak up. I got completely immersed in how important this subject is because most urban India and also small-town India have turned digital. So, even matrimonial sites have now replaced the matchmakers. While we give the woman or the family some amount of independence, freedom and also the ability to talk to a person who is not in the same city, it also gives the criminals the very fertile ground in which they operate. They are behind the screen and nobody has seen them for a while. They can take anybody else's identity, become a very cute and lovely looking face of a guy but actually be somebody who has been after money. So, it's a modern-day contemporary social crisis that needs to be spoken about. I was immediately interested in doing it and feel very privileged now that I was able to make it. 

I thought real people who have gone through this would be far more interesting than making a fictional story about it. 

Men also fall victim to such frauds. Why did you choose only women as victims of matrimonial fraud?

There is a very simple reason. First of all, it is a limited series where we have only five women. I agree with you and I know men are also victims of such fraud but the number of women falling victim to it is larger. I personally very consciously chose the option of making this only about women, so that we can really delve into their lives and B-it's not a world where men and women are treated equally, especially in our country, it is not equal. So, in that situation, I wanted to choose and talk about women not only to bring out the matrimony fraud of course but also the fact that how marriage itself is a pressure and it's a pressure especially to be good-looking, fair, to be able to give big dowries, etc. These are all pressures that are typically more on women than on men. My focus is on talking about the fact that women are still considered that they are not equal to men in our country. My whole endeavour as a director and a storyteller is to bring this to the world.

Do you feel the role of female directors or writers in the Indian film industry is far from satisfactory? 

Amazon has done this study where they have put the exact numbers on the presence of females in the film industry. The number is very low. When I started working three decades ago, there were just a handful of female directors. At the time I used to say that we needed more women directors. Over these decades, the increase has gone to maybe 50 which should be 100. It is a small number. The women's presence on screen as well as behind the screen, has increased but it has not increased with the amount it should have over 30 years. In my opinion, there are not lots of female writers and directors in the industry. I will say there are some but not more. I look forward to the day when there will be 50 percent women and 50 percent men, then we are doing well.

You made 'Dushman' 25 years back which was ahead of time. As a country, we are progressing, yet we still see portrayals of women are regressive in our films. What do you have to say about it?

This is also one of the reasons that large women's presence behind the screen will make a difference. It would affect the content as it will somehow make it come through the female way. But right now largely, it has been operating through the male way. When I made Dushman, at the time it required a hero as well otherwise we wouldn't get funding now possibly one can have a film that is made without a hero and be able to get funding but you will never get funding as much as say a male would get for his film. 

But yes, we have to move ahead in terms of speaking more about the fact that yes, I am not against showing what happens in society. Movies come from society. It's not like society comes from movies or storytelling. But storytelling influence. So, we can't say no it doesn't matter what stories we tell. Certainly, it matters what we show on screen or what a character does or says. 

I am on for showing the reality but I am against glorifying the violence, or men should be violent and women should be submissive. Your films should say this is how it is and it's not ok. 

When will you make a feature film next?

I would love to make another one like Qarib Qarib Singlle. As I am done with this project, I am trying to make that happen. It's a different kind of approach for a series and a feature film. I am hoping I will be able to do it. I am not a producer and funding is required.

Your films are critically acclaimed but sadly they are not blockbusters. Does it bother you?

I am very much aware of the kind of cinema I am interested in. I know it's not in a blockbuster zone. My interest is different from that but yes, I do want a box of success because that makes you happy and fulfilled. But I am also aware that is not the only kind of success. It happened with Sur. Over the years, it was loved and appreciated and it has acquired the box office success. When people remember your movie after so many years, that for me is a success.