Kangana Ranaut’s “Tanu Weds Manu Returns” is the first female-led Bollywood film
to earn over Rs100 crore. Anushka Sharma’s “NH10” and Deepika Padukone’s “Piku” also did well at the Indian box office. However, women remain underrepresented in all roles in the Indian film industry. The gender ratio in India’s film industry stands at 6.2 males to every female, and only one-in-ten film directors (9.1%) are women. The lack of women in key film industry positions in India translates into gender gaps in film content.

Female characters in Indian films comprise only 24.9% of the total, and none of the top ten highest grossing films in 2014 featured a female lead or co-lead. When women do appear in films, they are rarely shown in powerful positions. Fewer than 15% of all roles in Indian films depict women as business executives, political figures, or science, technology, engineering, and math professionals. Instead, female
characters are commonly presented in gendered occupations such as nurses and teachers, and as wives and mothers.

When women are represented in Indian films, they are also hyper-sexualized. Indian women are three times more likely than men to be portrayed with some nudity (35% compared to 13.5%). They are also three times more likely to appear in revealing clothing than men (34.1% compared to 12.2%). Reported cases of eating disorders have increased over five times since 1990 as Indian media has become more Westernized, and previous research has linked this to unattainable standards of beauty put forth in entertainment media.

Cinema and Society: Shaping our Worldview: Beyond the Lens Investigation on the Impact of Gender Representation in Indian Films, Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, OAK Foundation, 2016

Posted by Natasha

Natasha received her MA in Literature and Culture in 2008 from Oregon State University. Currently she lives in Oregon with her husband and cats.

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